Can Sébastien Ogier start his fightback in Sardinia?
The World Rally Championship continues in Sardinia next weekend. Ford’s five-time world champion Sébastien Ogier lost his championship lead after retiring in Rally Portugal. Rally Sardinia offers the first chance to reduce Thierry Neuville’s 19-points lead. The rally will be driven through challenging roads, and title-winning co-driver Luis Moya regards the rally as the toughest event of the championship.
Ogier has led the championship for the most of the time in recent years, so he has been opening the road in gravel rallies. Basically, his road position has meant sweeping the loose gravel off in opening days.
Now, he is second on the road and Neuville has to do the sweeping. However, in a rally like Sardinia, the difference between the first two cars is not big. This is why the drivers who start further back will try to capitalize on their road position and build a lead for the rest of the rally. After the first day, the running order will be reversed and the leader will get the best road position of the hot group.
“We won’t be opening the road this year, but we’ll still have something of an uphill battle with many fast drivers benefiting from a cleaner road behind”, commented Ogier (who has won Rally Sardinia three times) before the rally. “Even so, I’m confident that we can challenge for a good result. If we can keep the lead in sight on Friday night then we’ll be in with a good chance – and will push for the best possible result.”
Ott Tänak won the rally last year with Ford and is keen on repeating that performance in Toyota team. Tänak will be third on the road, so it is likely that he will suffer from the loose gravel in Day 1. The Estonian star needs a good result in order to get back to the title fight after retiring in Portugal.
“Sardinia is a special rally for me as it’s where I got my first win one year ago” stated Tänak before the rally. “Hopefully we can get another top result this time around. I think this will be a key rally for the championship.”
Hyundai's Neuville knows the challenges of the rally: “Sardinia is one of the most technical events on the calendar but the stages tend to suit my driving style and pace notes system,” commented the Belgian, according to the team.
After the leading trio, Toyota’s Esapekka Lappi and Jari-Matti Latvala, Hyundai’s Andreas Mikkelsen and Haydon Paddon and Citroën-duo Mads Ostberg and Craig Breen will try to take full advantage of the cleaning road in the first day of the rally. One should not forget Ford’s Elfyn Evans and Teemu Suninen either, since both demonstrated impressive speed in Portugal.
Rally Sardinia will start with a Super Special Stage on Thursday.