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WRC Rally Italy

Explained: How the WRC's sprint rally trial will work in Sardinia

This week’s Rally Sardinia will offer a first look at the World Rally Championship’s new sprint rally concept as the series aims to shake up its event formats for the future.

The WRC and the FIA are keen to offer more varied event formats going forward, which could see more compact sprint events and longer endurance rallies become part of future championship calendars. The flexibility of event formats was among a raft of proposals tabled by the FIA as part of its vision for the future of rallying in February.

To test the waters, Sardinia will trial a sprint format this weekend which will see the entire event completed within 48 hours. In recent years WRC events comprise 300km or more in competitive stage kilometres and can run across four days. This weekend organisers have compiled a 16-stage 266.12km route, instead of the 19-stage 320.88km gravel road itinerary utilised last year.

"Compared to the past, the race has a more compact format, it is an experiment that we have adopted upon the request of the FIA and the WRC Promoter on the basis of an exemption that Sardinia has obtained, to run and test a more concentrated event format, which could become an option for other organisers in the near future, according to the new FIA regulations being introduced," explained Tiziano Siviero - former co-driver to 1988-89 world rally champion Miki Biasion – who has set this year's course.

What is the new format?

Under this new format, the rally will begin with a shakedown [Ittiri, 2.08km] held on Friday morning at 0801 local time. Crews will then start the competitive stages on Friday beginning the leg [77.82km] at 1433 local. Friday's action will see competitors tackle a loop of two stages [Osilo-Tergu, 25.65km – Sedini-Castelsardo, 13.2km] twice, before heading back to host city Alghero for an end-of-day service.

Saturday will feature a more traditional leg comprising eight stages, totalling 149 kilometres, but they will run in a slightly different format. Similar to Friday afternoon, a pair of stages will be completed twice to make up the loop. Commencing at 0741 local, the first pass through Tempio Pausania [12.03km] and Tula 22.61km will be punctuated by a 25-minute regroup before the second run.

Instead of returning to the Alghero service park, the crews will undertake a 15-minute tyre fitting zone before heading to the afternoon stages. Once again, the field will complete two passes through a pair of stages namely [Monte Lerno - Monti di Ala, 25.33km and Coiluna – Loelle, 14.53km]. The day will conclude with a service back in Alghero at 2037 local.

Sunday's leg is largely unchanged compared to other events. Four stages are scheduled - two passes through Cala Flumini [12.55km] and Sassari - Argentiera [7.10km] - with the rally set to finish at 13:15 local time.

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

What drivers and teams expect from the new format

The new format will be new for drivers and teams but, despite the shorter distance, Toyota team principal Jari-Matti Latvala is expecting Sardinia's gravel roads to offer just as tough a challenge as in previous years.

"It's going to be interesting to see the new more compact format in action in Sardinia: it will be a shorter event but not an easier rally, with long days and still quite many kilometres, and I think it could be even more exciting," said Latvala.

"Saturday afternoon is especially long and tough with the notorious Monte Lerno stage, and managing the tyres and avoiding the rocks will be key for success."

M-Sport team principal Richard Millener added: "I'm looking forward to Sardinia and experiencing this new event format in real-time, we have a very compact but action-packed schedule and I'm excited to see how it pans out."

His number one driver Adrien Fourmaux has likened the event to a "sprint rally" and believes competition will be "very" high.

"Sardinia is one of the rallies I have the most experience; we know it's a rough event, a bit smaller in mileage than previous years, but we know the competition will be very high," he said.

"It's going to be like a sprint rally, and we will do our best to get the best result possible. We are now fourth in the championship, and we want to be back in the podium places."

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