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Italy (Sardinia) - 8-11 Jun 17

Posted: June 9, 2017 9:26 AM - 1947 Hits

Round 7 - 2017 World Rally Championship

Live Results (Italy 2017) Also available at: rally-base results
Radio: Rally Radio on WRC.COM
News: www.wrc.com
Event Website: Rally Italia

First stage each day - Times are Irish/UK (Sardinia is 1 hour ahead)
Shakedown Thu - 07:00
SS1 Thu - 17:00 (Superspecial)
SS2 Fri - 06:18
SS10 Sat - 06:45
SS16 Sun - 07:33

Duggan set for another Mediterranean adventure on Rally Italia

Posted: June 7, 2017 11:47 AM

Junior World Rally Championship contender Rob Duggan will start the second round of his 2017 campaign on this weekend’s Rally Italia Sardinia. It’s been 2 months since the season opening round in Corsica and the 24 year old driver from Killarney will be looking to build upon his 6th place finish on that event.

Sardinia is the first loose surface event in the Junior World Rally Championship calendar and the Mediterranean island has earned a fearsome reputation since it was first included in the World Championship calendar in 2004. Duggan however, remains unperturbed, despite the fact he will have a new co-driver for this rally. Tom Woodburn will slot into the seat normally filled by Ger Conway as Conway is getting married this weekend.
“I suppose it’s a decent excuse” smiled Duggan speaking ahead of the rally. “It’ll be a pity not to have Ger aboard as usual but Tom is an excellent replacement and I’m looking forward to working with him. Sardinia is a completely different rally to anything I will have done before, dust for example could be a significant factor. Having talked to people who have been here in the past, running down the field like we will be can leave you vulnerable to picking up punctures and suspension damage so we will have to be mindful of that, especially on the second pass over stages. We learned a lot in Corsica but didn’t come away with the points we wanted so a strong haul of points here would put us right back on track. I’m looking forward to using the DMACK Tyres on gravel again and to continue to build up my loose surface experience. A good result would be a nice wedding present for Ger and Ciara!”

Following a super special stage on Thursday night, the 2017 Rally Italia Sardinia will start in earnest on Friday with 8 stages. Saturday will see the crews cover 6 tests while Sunday sees 4 stages, giving a total competitive route of 312km. Open to drivers born after 1 January 1988, the 2017 Junior World Rally Championship will follow an arrive-and-drive format and competitors will drive identical Ford Fiesta R2Ts. The Junior WRC will be contested over six WRC rounds, – starting in Corsica, then Italy, Poland, Finland and Germany before finishing in Spain. Points will be awarded to the top-ten finishers according to the usual WRC points system and an additional point will be awarded for each fastest stage time.

To keep up to date with Rob's exploits make sure and visit www.robduggan.com and follow Rob on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Rob is supported by Rentokil Initial, CB Toolhire, DMACK Tyres, M-Sport and the Team Ireland Foundation.

Hyundai Motorsport seeks second straight Sardinian success

Posted: June 7, 2017 10:46 AM

Hyundai Motorsport is looking to continue its recent run of strong performances with another positive result at Rally Italia Sardegna, the seventh round on the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) calendar.

Entering the second half of the 2017 season, the team finds itself in a position to challenge for the Manufacturers’ Championship, with its crews also featuring prominently in the Drivers’ standings.

Having claimed podiums at every gravel event this season, as well as six individual podiums in the last four events, the team is confident that it can once again compete at the front with its Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC.

Moments in time

Sardinia holds happy memories for Hyundai Motorsport as the scene of the team’s first three-car rally back in 2014, Hayden Paddon’s debut podium as part of a 2-3 result in 2015, and a popular victory for Thierry Neuville twelve months ago.

The fourth gravel event of the season, Sardinia will serve as a real test to the competing crews, who must not only navigate the island’s rugged routes, but also the sweltering summer sun.

The Italian WRC counter has its origins in a mixed surface event based in Sanremo, known as the Rally of the Flowers, which was first held in 1928. It featured in the inaugural WRC schedule in 1973 and only moved to its current gravel format and location on the Mediterranean island in 2004.

Crews must be able to adapt their style for the loose and slippery gravel of initial stage runs, as well as the rutted roads that they will face during second passes. Just like in Rally de Portugal, tyre choice management could well prove crucial.

The heat is on

Temperature will also be one of the main obstacles facing the teams as they take to the stages from Thursday evening. With the mercury soaring past the 30°C barrier, not only will it be uncomfortable in the cars for the drivers, but extra stress will also be put on both the engine and transmission of their vehicles.

The team’s driver line-up will remain unchanged from Portugal; Paddon and Seb Marshall in the #4 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul in the #5, Dani Sordo and Marc Martí in the #6. Paddon will contest all remaining rounds of the season with Marshall after a mutual decision with long-term co-driver John Kennard, who has stepped aside earlier than planned as a result of an ongoing hip condition.

Although there has been no testing since Portugal, Hyundai Motorsport’s three crews carried out testing in Sardinia in early May to prepare for next weekend’s 19-stage rally.

Team Principal Michel Nandan commented:
“We head into Rally Italia Sardegna on the back of a very good run of results, including victories in Corsica and Argentina, as well as our most recent double podium in Portugal. We are hopeful that we can compete for a positive result, but at the same time we know our competitors are also pushing hard. We have shown that our Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC has the potential to fight for podiums and wins on gravel. We know the cars strengths and weaknesses, and will do all we can to maximise our performance to try and repeat some our past success in Sardinia.”

Crew Notes: Paddon/Marshall (#4 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

Despite suffering from technical issues at Rally Portugal, Paddon and Marshall were still able to claim four stage wins. The Kiwi driver has fond memories of Sardinia, which was not only the scene of his WRC debut for Hyundai Motorsport, but also where he secured his first podium, a second place finish in 2015, as part of a double podium for the team.

Paddon said: “The decision for John to step down early was not an easy one, but we all felt it was best in the difficult circumstances. He will continue to play an important role in our WRC programme. Seb did a great job in Portugal, so we are looking forward to continuing the partnership in Sardinia, with John’s support and backing. I think Sardinia is one of the toughest European rallies that we do. It’s rough, it’s hot and you have to pay really special attention to the car as well. But those challenges aside, we have some good memories from there and, of course, we would like to try and repeat some of those. Most of all, we are hoping to just have a nice clean rally. We saw some signs of genuine encouragement on the final day in Portugal, so I’d like to pick up from there!”

Crew Notes: Neuville/Gilsoul (#5 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul moved up to second place in the Drivers’ Championship after their second place result in Portugal. Returning to the scene of their 2016 victory, the Belgians will be aiming to continue their recent streak of results, which has also seen them claim Power Stage points in every round of the Championship so far.

Neuville commented: “Rally Italia Sardegna is a special event for me, particularly after our win last year. I still have very fond memories of our entire team jumping into the harbour in celebration. We already have a couple of wins this season, but this is a technical event that we cannot take for granted. The roads are very hard and dry which can be tough on the cars, especially the tyres. Therefore, tyre choice can be crucial depending on road position and will be something we watch closely. Overall, we are happy, we are confident, and we are hopeful that we can achieve a positive result.”

Crew Notes: Sordo/Martí (#6 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

Fresh from his second podium of the season at Rally Portugal, Sordo has high hopes that he and his co-driver Marc Martí can continue to sustain their consistency in Sardinia. The Spaniard holds fifth place in the Drivers’ Championship as the season moves into the second half.

Sordo commented: “I was pleased to get back onto the podium in Portugal, and to show we can fight on gravel. Sardinia is not one of my preferred events, but the second passes of the stages are nice as they are a bit cleaner and smoother. The stages themselves are very narrow so it is always difficult to build up confidence. Getting a podium in Portugal shows what we are capable of and the consistency that we have had since the beginning of the season has been encouraging. I just hope we can use this positive momentum to tackle this next challenge to the best of our ability.”

Rally at a glance

Rally Italia Sardegna comprises 312.66 competitive kilometres of action run across 19 stages.

The rally base and service park will be situated in the west coast town of Alghero once again. It is near to this location that the rallying begins on Thursday evening, with the running of a Super Special Stage at the Ittiri Arena, before crews overnight in Olbia on the opposite coast.

Friday features four stages run twice across a total of 125.46km, including the return of two classic rough and rocky tests - Terranova and Monte Olia.

Saturday is the longest and toughest leg with 143.16km divided over six stages in the Monte Acuto region, while Sunday’s finale is identical to that of 2016, with two repeated stages covering 42.04km.

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing trio take on Sardinian gravel challenge

Posted: June 7, 2017 10:45 AM

Another gruelling gravel event lies in store for the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team on round seven of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship: Rally Italia Sardegna. The team continues to develop its Yaris WRC challenger during its debut season and for the second event in a row there will be three cars entered, driven by Jari-Matti Latvala, Juho Hänninen and Esapekka Lappi, who scored points on his top-level WRC debut in Portugal. Lappi’s car will be a test and development car, designed to help accelerate the evolution of the Yaris WRC during this learning season.

Rally Italia Sardegna features fast and narrow stages coated with fine and sandy gravel, which is swept away by each passing car to leave rockier and rutted roads. Exposed rocks, as well as trees at the side of the road, can catch out the unwary. Temperatures can often be high, increasing the stress on the cars and the tyres.

The rally is based in Alghero on the west coast of Sardinia, but after a super special stage on Thursday evening, crews will stay in Olbia on the east side overnight to contest the classic Terranova and Monte Olia tests as part of four stages run twice on Friday. Saturday is the longest day at 143.16 kilometres across two loops of three stages. There are four stages on Sunday, with Sassari-Argentiera acting as the rally-ending Power Stage.

Latvala, who currently sits third in the drivers’ standings, is a former winner in Sardinia, taking victory in 2009 along with four other podium finishes over the year. Hänninen has also contested the event four times in the past but not recently, while Lappi has previous experience from his WRC2 campaign.

Quotes:

Tommi Mäkinen (Team Principal)
“After Portugal, we now have another very tough rally, in Sardinia. Although our cars will not be so different to how they were in Portugal, we learned a few things there that I hope will be useful in Italy. Sardinia will be hot and rough with a big risk of punctures, but the drivers are very professional and they know what to do. I would like to see three cars at the finish and if we can score some points as well, then even better. We’ve got a good development plan for Sardinia, with Esapekka as well, but the most important thing is to do the mileage so that we can learn as much as possible.”



Jari-Matti Latvala (Driver car 10)
“I’m looking forward to the rally, but it's going to be much hotter and more slippery than Portugal, with a bigger cleaning effect. Punctures are going to be the big thing: because the surface is quite hard, the roads don’t get so rough or degrade on the second passage but any loose rocks don’t get pushed back into the surface either. Instead they just stay on the road and this is what can puncture your tyre or even damage the damper. There are some things that you can do to change your driving style to try and avoid this: you have to be very careful of the rocks on the insides of corners.”

Juho Hänninen (Driver car 11)
“We did a two-day test in Sardinia before we went to Argentina. That was quite a long time ago and of course conditions were much cooler but it still gave us a good idea of what the roads were like. The advantage of the heat is that it actually makes the tyre choice a little more straightforward, so that is one less thing to worry about. Portugal was a good event for us and we learned plenty of things there, so if we can have another clean run then we have a great chance of scoring more points. I think our road position on the first day could help and then we have to make the most of the conditions to the end.”

Esapekka Lappi (Driver car 12)
“Sardinia has always been one of those rallies that is more about survival than raw speed: I just want to have a problem-free rally and get to the finish. I think I’m going to be trying some new parts on the car, so my job is to collect data for the team and gain more experience. We had a good result in Portugal, but that only alters the expectations from other people: it doesn’t make any difference to me personally. Before Sardinia I had a one-day test in Finland to get more of a feel about how I can set up the car. Obviously, Finland isn’t the same as Sardinia, but I did around 150 kilometres, which was useful just to try some different suspension settings.”

MEEKE, BREEN AND MIKKELSEN TAKE ON SARDINIA TEST

Posted: June 7, 2017 10:43 AM

As the season hits the halfway stage, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT has entered a new line-up in Sardinia. The Citroën C3 WRCs will be driven by Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle, Craig Breen/Scott Martin and Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger.

RALLY ITALIA SARDEGNA: THE HARDEST PART!

Following rounds in Argentina and Portugal, the WRC visits another country where rallying is practically a religion. Italy drivers and manufacturers have played a key role in the history of the World Championship since it was founded. On the WRC calendar, the legendary Rallye Sanremo was replaced by Rally Italia Sardegna in 2004. The competitors were introduced to road surfaces and conditions that were very different to those on the Italian Riviera.

On the Mediterranean island, the stages are incredibly demanding, for the drivers, cars and tyres alike. The narrow and twisty gravel roads are surrounded by thick vegetation, hiding the large rocks that the drivers are well advised to avoid hitting with their wheels. As the ground is invariably covered with a thick layer of sand and dust, the running order tends to be of critical importance on the first pass on the stages. The challenge is different again on the second run: the drivers have to cope with ruts that become deeper as more cars complete, as well as the bedrocks that can become exposed… almost anywhere! Bearing in mind that temperatures may approach 30°C during the weekend, it is easy to see why many crews are apprehensive about this seventh round.

The rally is due to kick off on Thursday evening, with the ceremonial start in Alghero and a 2km-long super special stage. The cars then cross the island, from the west to the east coast, stopping in Olbia for the night. Following this transfer, the crews will tackle the daunting stages of Terranova and Monte Olia on Friday. Saturday features the fullest programme, including the long Monti di Ala’ and Monte Lerno speed tests. This final stage includes the famous Micky’s Jump, a popular meeting point for the Italian rally fans and one of the event's highlights! Contested without a service break, Sunday's final leg is something of a sprint finish, with just four short stages.

THE CHALLENGES: CITROËN AND MIKKELSEN CAUSE A STIR

Three C3 WRCs have been entered by the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT for the Italian round. In the Drivers' and Co-drivers' World Championship standings, Craig Breen and Scott Martin are the team's highest ranked crew. Seventh on 43 points, the Anglo-Irish duo have shown tremendous consistency in finishing fifth in Monte-Carlo, Sweden, Corsica and Portugal. In Sardinia, Craig will once again have to cope with very limited knowledge of the roads. As a result, another top-five finish would be an entirely satisfactory performance.

Ninth with 27 points, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle scored almost all of their tally when they won Rally Mexico. In a season of highs and lows, the Citroën C3 WRC crew will be aiming for an error-free race as they look to secure another positive result. They clearly have the speed, as witnessed in the many stage wins recorded in the last four rallies. They just have to convert their speed into results!

Officially announced just after Rally de Portugal, the arrival of Andreas Mikkelsen and Anders Jæger in the team has undoubtedly been the most talked-about developments ahead of the rally. Despite being short of running time in the C3 WRC, the Norwegian will be able to make the most of his experience at the event and an excellent starting position for the opening leg. Having secured top 10 finishes at Rallye Monte-Carlo and the Tour de Corse in a WRC2-spec car, Andreas lies eleventh in the World Championship standings. Although it is difficult to predict where the no.9 C3 WRC will end up in the standings, it is certain that Citroën Racing's new recruits are bursting with motivation!

YVES MATTON, CITROËN RACING TEAM PRINCIPAL
"We have decided to keep the same modest goals for this rally: we have asked our crews to ensure two cars to finish in the top 5. Obviously, the fact that Andreas Mikkelsen is competing at this event for us has caused a lot of excitement and expectation. But after just one day of testing, it is impossible for him to know the C3 WRC inside out. He will therefore be free to race according to his feeling in the car and adapt his pace accordingly. His road position for the first leg will be very beneficial, but he won't be the only one. Kris Meeke will also have a great chance."

LAURENT FREGOSI, TECHNICAL DIRECTOR
"Due to the heat, the fairly low average speeds and the rough character of the stages, we know that Rally Sardinia will be one the most demanding events of the season for the cars. The slightest mistake can prove very costly for the drivers, given that there are so many rocks alongside the Sardinian roads! We didn't conduct any testing after Rally de Portugal, since we spent a week in the Olbia region in early May. We're confident about the potential of the C3 WRC on this surface. Analysis of the data gathered in Portugal confirmed that we are heading in the right direction."

KRIS MEEKE
"Obviously, we've had a couple of disappointing rounds in Argentina and Portugal. We are fully focused on getting back onto the positive trend that helped us to win in Mexico, and lead the Tour de Corse before having a technical problem. As we didn't compete in Sardinia last year, we're going to have to refamiliarise ourselves with the rally. The stages are technically difficult and slippery, so your driving needs to be incredibly precise, especially when the road is narrow. From a pure racing point of view, it isn't necessarily that enjoyable to drive on this type of surface, but we'll try hard to have a solid race. I think it's a good thing to have Andreas in the team. He brings valuable experience and he has the potential to win rallies. We'll work together to ensure Citroën wins."

Number of WRC appearances at the event: 5
Best result: 16th (2004)

CRAIG BREEN
"Like Argentina and Portugal, pretty much all of this rally is going to be new to us. I did recce in 2016 and we did some testing in Sardinia a few weeks ago, but that's still not very much compared with the guys who have been competing at this event for several years. To try and compensate, I have prepared meticulously for this rally. For example, viewing on-board footage has helped us to spot the largest pitfalls and trickiest sections. After a series of fifth places, I'd be delighted to get the same result in Sardinia, before tackling more familiar events such as Poland or Finland. I'd like to say welcome to Andreas; we don't know each other very well at the moment, but I'm looking forward to working with him!"

Number of WRC appearances at the event: 1

ANDREAS MIKKELSEN
"The last few days have been exciting, seeing the Citroën Racing factory for the first time, meeting the members of the team and, of course, getting to grips with the car in the south of France. The roads used during the test were very different to those we'll see in Sardinia, but it gave me a good idea of the potential of the Citroën C3 WRC. With the downforce and the power of the engine, the feeling in the car was good – it's an impressive piece of machinery. We started to work on the set-up in order to adapt it to my driving style. Next weekend, I have no idea where we'll be in relation to the other crews. We'll have a favourable starting position for the opening leg, but the standard is so high in the WRC at the moment that we won't be taking anything for granted. We'll do our best on this tough event."

Number of WRC appearances at the event: 6
Best result: 4th (2014)

M-SPORT - TURN UP THE HEAT AT RALLY ITALIA SARDEGNA

Posted: June 7, 2017 10:27 AM

M-Sport are ready to turn up the heat as the FIA World Rally Championship reaches its mid-point at next week’s Rally Italia Sardegna.

Having delivered a strong start to the season, the Cumbrian team currently lead both championships and will be hoping for a similarly strong performance when Sébastien Ogier, Ott Tänak and Elfyn Evans are reunited with the Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC.

Having completed a comprehensive five-day test on location last week, the team have been working around the clock to be prepared for the sun-soaked stages of Sardinia.

RALLY ITALIA SARDEGNA THE ENDLESS ISLAND
Known as the Endless Island, Sardinia is prime rallying territory with rugged mountains, ancient forests and unspoilt rural terrain providing some of the most picturesque and demanding terrain of the year.

Lined with car-breaking obstacles, the stages are extremely fast and narrow with no room for error. Combine that with the intense heat and Rally Italia Sardegna offers one of the most thrilling and unpredictable events on the calendar.

Based in the coastal town of Alghero, the event covers 312.66 kilometres across 19 competitive stages and this year’s fixture will see the crews travel to Olbia on Thursday evening so as to facilitate the return of two classic speed tests – Terranova and Monte Olbia.

MALCOLM WILSON TEAM PRINCIPAL
Honoured as an Outstanding UK Leader at the Autocar Awards last month, Malcolm Wilson continues to receive global recognition for M-Sport’s impressive performance so far this year.

With the Ford Fiesta WRC having secured a podium finish at every event so far, the celebrated Team Principal is keen to see that trend continue.

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s hard to believe that we are approaching the mid-point of the season. We’ve produced some fantastic results over the first half of the year and we certainly want to see that continue.

“This is one of the closest championships that I can remember and we can’t afford to rest on our laurels. If we want to see our impressive string of results continue, so must the hard work and that is exactly what the team have been focused on.

“In particular, I must praise the efforts of our test team. We had a little celebration last week but some notable members of the team were unable to attend – our test team working hard in Sardinia and forgoing their bank holiday to ensure we are in the best possible shape for Rally Italia Sardegna.

“All three of our drivers have good track records at this event, and it’s one that the team look forward to every year. I see no reason why we shouldn’t be challenging for the top results once again, and everyone will be working to achieve that goal.”

OGIER AND INGRASSIA THE CHAMPIONSHIP LEADERS
Fresh from victory at Rally de Portugal, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia will be keen to add more silverware to their collection and increase their lead at the head of the drivers’ championship. With a strong track record at Rally Italia Sardegna, the Frenchmen have three victories to their name and will be hoping to make it one more next week.

Previous starts: 8
Best result: 1st (2013, 2014 and 2015)

Sébastien Ogier said:
“We found a good feeling with the Fiesta in Portugal and we’ll be hoping to continue that in Sardinia. We’re approaching the mid-point in the season, and that’s where the championship will really start to heat up… quite literally!

“The temperatures that we’ll experience next week are probably the highest of the year and we’ll need to be prepared for that. We had a good test last week where we confirmed our cooling options as well as set-up configurations for the event – so there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be confident of challenging for another strong result.

“We’ll face an element of cleaning on the opening day, but we’ve got a good track record in Sardinia and I’ve learned to enjoy these demanding stages. It’s not the easiest of events. You need to keep a margin and be focused from start to finish. Tyre preservation can also prove really important and that could be particularly significant on Saturday with two 70 kilometre loops.

“The aim is always to increase our lead at the head of the championship, and we hope to do that with another strong performance.”

TÄNAK AND JÄRVEOJA FOURTH IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP
Rally Italia Sardegna played host to Ott Tänak’s maiden FIA World Rally Championship podium and the Estonian will be hoping to at least equal that next week. Having delivered rally-winning pace in Portugal, a maiden victory cannot be far away and he and co-driver Martin Järveoja are more determined than ever – their new partnership and their understanding of the Ford Fiesta WRC growing with each outing.

Previous starts: 5
Best result: 3rd (2012)

Ott Tänak said:
“I feel as though we’re getting better all the time and learning more about the car every time we get behind the wheel. We had a great set-up in Portugal – the best we’ve had all year – and another test last week means that we go to Sardinia in a positive mood.

“The island holds a lot of special memories for me as it’s where I secured my first podium back in 2012 and we’ll be aiming to at least equal that next week.

“We’ll need to be fully focussed from the start as there are so many things to consider on an event as tricky as this one. The stages are very narrow, but also quite fast in places. There is always something to catch you out, so you need to keep that margin.

“If that weren’t enough, we’ll also be experiencing the highest temperatures of the year which could mean more tyre wear and a need to manage the situation. We got an idea of what to expect at the test, and we hope to be in a position to challenge for another strong result.

“The plan will be to go out there and enjoy it – which isn’t difficult with these new cars!”

EVANS AND BARRITT SIXTH IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP
Elfyn Evans first took to the wheel of a world rally car at Rally Italia Sardegna in 2013. Having improved his performance with every outing on the Italian isle, the Welshman knows this event well and he and co-driver Daniel Barritt will be keen to deliver another strong performance next week.

Previous starts: 3
Best result: 4th (2015)

Elfyn Evans said:
“I’ve got a lot of good memories from Sardinia. It’s where I first got behind the wheel of a world rally car and I didn’t want to give it back! It’s not the easiest of rallies by a long shot, but I think it’s the challenge that I enjoy.

“There are so many factors that you need to keep in mind at an event like this. The stages are very rough and abrasive, and then there are the high temperatures. Air temperatures can be as high as 30C and those in the cockpit can get up to 50C plus!

“This will be the first time that we’re experiencing this sort of environment with our 2017 package so we’ll have to wait and see how it plays out. We’ll certainly be giving it our all though, and as history has shown, anything can happen at an event like Rally Italia Sardegna.”

ELSEWHERE IN THE TEAM
Elsewhere in the team, Pierre-Louis Loubet and Vincent Landais will be flying the flag for the Ford Fiesta R5 Evo2 in the WRC 2 category.

The latest upgrade of M-Sport’s most successful global rally car enjoyed an impressive debut at last month’s Rally de Portugal – only just missing out on victory with Teemu Suninen.

Battling with Pontus Tidemand, the Finn had the upper hand on the stages but, when both rivals suffered a puncture on the same stage, the win came down to the battle of the tyre changes – Suninen missing out on victory by just over 10 seconds.

Having contested Rally Italia Sardegna last year, Loubet will be hoping to take that experience forward as he strives to secure another podium for the Fiesta R5 Evo2.

Further down the field, Éric Camilli and Benjamin Veillas will also be in action with the Fiesta R5 Evo2. The French pairing are not registered for points next weekend, but will be keen to show their speed on an event that yielded strong results last year.

Pierre-Louis Loubet said:
“I love this event. It’s really close to my home in Corsica and it has a fantastic atmosphere. For me, it’s a very special place.

“The biggest challenge is the stages themselves. The roads are very tricky. They’re so narrow so you must be concentrated from the very beginning and avoid mistakes at all costs.

“I still have a lot to learn so I’m not setting myself any particular goals. The main aim will just be to enjoy and give my maximum. If we can do that, I’m sure the result will be a good one.”

Éric Camilli said:
“I really enjoyed Rally Italia Sardegna last year. It’s where I secured my first stage win and I remember being absolutely delighted with that.

“We’ll not be registered for WRC 2 points next week so we’ll focus on learning as much as we can about this special event. But we still want to show our speed and I think we have a good chance of challenging for the class victory.”

MEET THE TEAM MASSIMO CARRIERO
Italian Massimo Carriero has formed an integral part of the M-Sport team for the past six years. Heavily involved in the design and development of the new-generation, Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC, Carriero attends all FIA World Rally Championship events and tests but took time out of his busy schedule as Head of Event Engineering to tell us a little more about his role within the team.

How long have you been with M-Sport and what made you join the company?
I’ve been with M-Sport for six years now. I’m passionate about motorsport and I’ve always wanted to be involved in the industry. I was primarily interested in circuit racing but when I started engineering for a national rally team in Italy I developed a real passion for rallying. The goal was always to improve myself and my skills, and that’s why I decided to join M-Sport and became involved in the FIA World Rally Championship.

What does your role as M-Sport’s Head of Event Engineering involve?
On events, I get together with the guys that are running the individual cars to coordinate our approach to the rally. We share information about the car builds and test results which allow us to formulate our event strategies and put into place any safeguards which may have arisen. We look at tyre strategies and weather reports and anything that involves the on-going process of the event.

You were involved in the design and development of the Ford Fiesta WRC, what was your key role in the process?
During the car design process, I was the technical leader of the project. I started with the car concept and then followed the process through to the vehicle design and engineering. Once we had the first car on the ground, I followed the testing and development programme which brought us to Rallye Monte-Carlo.

Since then, the work has not stopped. My main role may be ensuring that we extract the most from each event, but the development never stops. My main focus is on the events, but I still attend every test and work with the team to ensure that we are always extracting the maximum performance.

What are your thoughts on the performance of the Ford Fiesta WRC through the first half of the season?
It’s been a very positive start to the season for us, but it’s never easy. If you look at the standings we have more than a 20 point lead at the head of both championships – that’s a good lead, but if something happens it’s never enough. Even if things are going well as they are now, you can never relax and you need to keep the momentum going.

What are your thoughts ahead of Rally Italia Sardegna?
On a personal level, I really enjoy this event. There are always people around the service park who I know and who I can catch up with. The weather is nice, the people are nice, and it’s great to have a little taste of home in what is a very busy year for all of us. But in terms of the event itself, it’s no different. No matter where we are the goal is always the same – and that is to do the best we can and challenge for the victory.

Craig Breen hits the halfway mark of the 2017 WRC Season

Posted: June 7, 2017 10:23 AM

As the season hits the halfway stage, the Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT has entered a new line-up in Sardinia. The Citroen C3 WRCs will be driven by Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle, Craig Breen/Scott Martin and Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger. Following rounds in Argentina and Portugal, the WRC visits another country where rallying is practically a religion. On the WRC calendar, the legendary Rallye Sanremo was replaced by Rally Italia Sardegna in 2004. The competitors were introduced to road surfaces and conditions that were very different to those on the Italian Riviera.

On the Mediterranean island, the stages are incredibly demanding, for the drivers, cars and tyres alike. The narrow and twisty gravel roads are surrounded by thick vegetation, hiding the large rocks that the drivers are well advised to avoid hitting with their wheels. As the ground is invariably covered with a thick layer of sand and dust, the running order tends to be of critical importance on the first pass on the stages. The challenge is different again on the second run: the drivers have to cope with ruts that become deeper as more cars complete, as well as the bedrocks that can become exposed… almost anywhere! Bearing in mind that temperatures may approach 30°C during the weekend, it is easy to see why many crews are apprehensive about this seventh round. The rally is due to kick off on Thursday evening, with the ceremonial start in Alghero and a 2km-long super special stage. The cars then cross the island, from the west to the east coast, stopping in Olbia for the night. Following this transfer, the crews will tackle the daunting stages of Terranova and Monte Olia on Friday. Saturday features the fullest programme, including the long Monti di Ala’ and Monte Lerno speed tests. This final stage includes the famous Micky’s Jump, a popular meeting point for the Italian rally fans and one of the event's highlights! Contested without a service break, Sunday's final leg is something of a sprint finish, with just four short stages.

Officially announced just after Rally de Portugal, the arrival of Andreas Mikkelsen and Anders Jæger in the team has undoubtedly been the most talked-about developments ahead of the rally. Despite being short of running time in the C3 WRC, the Norwegian will be able to make the most of his experience at the event and an excellent starting position for the opening leg.

Speaking about the event Craig said,
"Like Argentina and Portugal, pretty much all of this rally is going to be new to us. I did recce in 2016 and we did some testing in Sardinia a few weeks ago, but that's still not very much compared with the guys who have been competing at this event for several years. To try and compensate, I have prepared meticulously for this rally. For example, viewing on-board footage has helped us to spot the largest pitfalls and trickiest sections. After a series of fifth places, I'd be delighted to get the same result in Sardinia, before tackling more familiar events such as Poland or Finland. I'd like to say welcome to Andreas; we don't know each other very well at the moment, but I'm looking forward to working with him!"

ANDREAS MIKKELSEN TO COMPETE FOR CITROEN AT RALLY ITALIA SARDEGNA

Posted: May 23, 2017 4:21 AM

Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team has changed its line-up for Rally Italia Sardegna (8-11 June), with the arrival of Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger in the no.9 Citroen C3 WRC.

At the halfway stage of the season, this mutually beneficial opportunity will enable the team take advantage of the experience of the crew that finished third in the 2016 World Championship. Meanwhile, the Norwegian duo will make their return to the championship's top category in a 2017-spec World Rally Car.

Citroen Racing remains true to its policy aimed at identifying and developing talented young rally drivers, and shall honour its commitments. Stephane Lefebvre and Gabin Moreau will be back in the C3 WRC at Rally Poland (29 June-2 July).

When it returned as a works team in the FIA World Rally Championship, Citroen's main target was to win rallies in normal racing conditions. Having scored one win, secured at Rally Guanajuato Mexico, this target has been partially achieved. The events of the first half of the season have nonetheless led to Citroen Racing studying the expansion of its driver line-up. Andreas Mikkelsen is therefore set to compete on behalf of the team on a one-off basis at Rally Italia Sardegna. Having finishing third in the 2016 World Championship, winning two rounds in the process, but without a WRC drive this season, the Norwegian will be making his first appearance in the Citroen C3 WRC. In order to prepare as effectively as possible, Citroen Racing will be organising a day of testing before the rally. Due to this one-off appearance, Stephane Lefebvre will not be competing at Rally Italia Sardegna. The Frenchman will take part in recce for the event, before focusing on his next competitive outing at Rally Poland. In taking this opportunity to call upon an experienced, available driver, Citroen has restated its determination to be fully successful on its return as a works team in the FIA World Rally Championship.

Yves Matton, Citroen Racing Team Principal
"After the first six rounds of the season, it would appear that the Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT's results have fallen a little short of the targets set at the start of the year. At the same time, Andreas Mikkelsen has been actively looking for a drive in the WRC's top category. We have therefore come to an agreement for him to compete at Rally Italia Sardegna in one of our C3 WRCs. I think I can say that we are all delighted with this opportunity! Andreas has a fair amount of experience at this rally, which is not the case for us since the Abu Dhabi Total WRT didn't compete in Sardinia last year. Given his limited preparation, Andreas won't have a specific target for the rally. We'll be just looking for him to drive at a pace that is consistent with how comfortable he feels in the car. We would like to thank the FIA and Skoda Motorsport for agreeing to this change and Stephane Lefebvre, who is giving up his place on this rally. This is not a sanction of any kind, nor does it call into question our investment in the young drivers. The decision is merely intended to maximise Citroen's chances. Stephane accepted that it was necessary to put the team first in this case; he will still be in Sardinia to take part in recce and will then be competing at Rally Poland." Andreas Mikkelsen "It's an open secret that I have been looking for a solution to keep competing in the top category of the WRC since the end of the 2016 season. I'm therefore very happy to be joining the Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT at Rally Italia Sardegna. Citroen has an impressive competitive record in the WRC and I'm delighted to be able to work with a team like this. In winning the season's opening gravel rally, the Citroen C3 WRC has shown it has potential and it seems to be making regular progress. I can't wait to get my bearings in testing and then start working on preparing for the rally. I'll no doubt be short of running time in the car at the start, but the main thing for me is to be back racing in the leading category in a strong team. I would like to thank everyone who has worked to make this opportunity possible."

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