Rarely have so many people studied so many weather charts as they are in the FIA World Rally Championship right now.
Don’t worry, the WRC will break its own record when it comes to next month’s Renties Ypres Rally Belgium and the potential wet-dry-drizzle implications for the Belgian lanes. But for now, all eyes are fixed firmly on the Italian island of Sardinia. West side.
As ever, a dry Rally Italia Sardegna (8 – 11 October) would favour those starting further down the order, while rain would improve the chances of championship leader Elfyn Evans, at least on the first day. What will it do?
Forecasts show a definite chance of rain in the days leading up to the event.
You’re right, the calendar is slightly out of harmony. We should have been there in the summer, but it doesn’t matter. Sardinia in October is nothing new, it was a similar date in 2004 and 2012.
And autumn doesn’t necessarily mean rain, just like summer doesn’t necessarily mean sun. It’s 23°C in the Alghero service park at the time of writing. And don’t forget the deluge which arrived to interrupt day one mid-summer two years ago.
One thing that won’t change is the shorter autumnal days offering fewer sunshine hours. That sun will set sooner to the beautiful backdrop of Alghero harbour, but the stages are all set. And the classics are all back, including Tula, Castelsardo, Coiluna and, of course, Monte Lerno. No Rally Italia Sardegna would be complete without rally cars hanging high in the air above Micky’s Jump.
And the players are more than ready. The championship is beautifully balanced with Toyota men Evans and Sébastien Ogier at the top of the tree and pushing for a Belgian box seat. But defending champ Ott Tänak, teenage sensation turned 20-something superstar Kalle Rovanperä and Thierry Neuville are right there ready for the merest hint of a slip.
But it’s not all about the megastars up front. Sardinia delivers the full house of championship battles with WRC 2, WRC 3 and Junior WRC crews all in action. And there’s more… how about Petter Solberg and Andreas Mikkelsen in the same Citroën C3 WRC?
The Norwegians are present in Alghero to make some noise about Pirelli’s new tyres and the Italian firm’s full-time return to the WRC next season. Mikkelsen will be in action at Thursday’s shakedown before the 2003 world champion shows his younger countryman how to drive a Wolf Power Stage on Sunday.
Italy. It’s where it’s all happening next week.