Elfyn Evans and Ott Tänak are feeling positive ahead of Rally Italia Sardegna.
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Elfyn Evans and Ott Tänak head to the Italian round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) in good spirits having completed a successful pre-event test earlier this week.
Experimenting with set-up and various tyre configurations, the duo are feeling positive ahead of Rally Italia Sardegna and will be keen to capitalise on the performance of their new Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta RS WRCs.
The Italian fixture may be based on the sun-soaked isle of Sardinia, but next weekend’s event is no summer holiday. The island’s rugged mountains, ancient forests and unspoilt rural terrain make it ideal rally territory, but the picturesque setting hides a daunting challenge that truly tests the competitors.
It’s a real challenge for driver and car alike, but the team made a great debut with the new car in Portugal...
Lined with car-breaking obstacles, the stages are extremely fast and narrow which leaves little room for error. Combine that with intense heat, an abundance of new speed tests and some of the longest days for over a decade and you have the recipe for an exceptionally demanding yet thrilling event.
A soft layer of sand covering the route means that road position could well play its part, but it’s the optimum tyre strategy and the crews’ ability to preserve their Michelin tyres upon which the rally can be won and lost. Notoriously abrasive, this year’s event will see the team’s strategists tested to the maximum with Thursday night’s tyre selection having to account for Friday’s opening leg as well as two remote tyre fitting zones on Saturday requiring the team to send part of their allocation to Buddusò in advance.
Evans has fond memories of Sardinia having made his world rally car debut at the event in 2013. Standing in for Nasser Al-Attiyah, he secured an impressive sixth place finish despite having no previous experience of the car, stages or co-driver, Giovanni Bernacchini. Reunited with Daniel Barritt for the 2014 edition, he did one better to bring his Fiesta RS WRC home in a strong fifth place.
Following a disappointing event in Portugal, Evans will be keen to get back in the groove next week. Looking for a clean run with no mistakes, the Brit has spent a full week in Sardinia to best acclimatise to the Mediterranean climate. Sending his road bike out on the test truck, the Welshman continues his fitness regime in the days before the recce – focusing his mind and body for the challenges ahead.
Team mate Tänak has similarly fond memories of the Italian fixture having secured his maiden WRC podium on the island in 2012. Having also claimed the S-WRC victory there in 2011, the Estonian knows what it takes to navigate the rock-strewn roads and could benefit from an advantageous road position over the first pass.
Following a confidence-building result at last month’s Rally de Portugal, Tänak could well challenge for the podium next week. Equipped with their new Fiesta RS WRC, he and co-driver Raigo Mõlder will certainly be ones to watch in Sardinia.
Elfyn Evans said: “I’ve got a lot of good memories from Sardinia having made my world rally car debut there in 2013. It’s a difficult rally, but one that I really enjoy so I’m looking forward to getting back out there. It’s a real challenge for driver and car alike, but the team made a great debut with the new car in Portugal so there’s certainly potential for a strong result next week.
“Road position should play a big role. Last year we saw the results table turned out its head at the end of the first day, and we will run in championship order for two days this year so that will be interesting! We’re in the middle of the pack so it’s not a bad positon, but there’ll still be those with a greater advantage. Tyre preservation and strategy will also be key. The second pass will be extremely hard on the tyres with high temperatures and a very abrasive surface. It will be exciting to see how all of these factors play out!
“Our aim is just to go out and enjoy the rally. We’ve not set any specific targets, we just want to enjoy the rally and find a good rhythm for the events to come. If we can do that with a clean run and no mistakes, the weekend could yield a good result.”
Ott Tänak said: “Sardinia always provides a really tricky event. You need to be sharp and concentrated and there are so many things to consider. The stages are very narrow and quite fast in places with plenty of dangers on the side of the road. You need to keep your focus and have a good recce to ensure you can be at your best.
“The roads have a hard base which is important for two reasons – road position and tyre wear. There are a lot of new stages this year, but we saw a lot of road cleaning last year so it will be important for us to make the most of what should be a good road position. Tyre wear is also always very tricky. The nature of the road and the high temperatures mean you need to be really careful and ensure that you manage your tyres through each leg.
“We just need to go out there and enjoy it, and with this new car it really is so easy to enjoy the driving! We need to have a good recce and then just see what the feeling is like. If it’s good, we can push a bit more and I certainly want to equal if not better our result from Portugal last month. We just need to get the confidence and keep it up.”
M-Sport World Rally Team