Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team will take on one of the toughest challenges of the season at Rally Italia Sardegna this week and seeking to maintain their strong momentum.
The team have won four out of the five World Championship events contested so far in 2023 and lead the manufacturers’ title race by 32 points.
After taking his first win of the year last time out in Portugal, defending champion Kalle Rovanperä tops the drivers’ standings by 17 points, with Sébastien Ogier and Elfyn Evans tied on points in third place: Ogier resumes his part-season programme on an event he has won four times before, with Takamoto Katsuta also entered in a fourth car supported by the TGR WRC Challenge Programme.
Elfyn Evans said, “Portugal was a disappointing weekend on my side but we have to put that behind us now, move forward to Sardinia and see what’s possible there.
“Our road position will be more favourable than on the last rally, but we know that it’s a challenging event regardless and one of the rougher rallies of the year. It definitely needs a smart approach but I’m looking forward to it nonetheless.
“Like always in Sardinia, they mix up the stages every year. A lot of the route is known from before but some of it has not been driven for many years, so there will be a lot of new pace notes to write during the recce – and a 50km long stage on Friday will of course be key.”
The stages on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia have a reputation as being among the most testing gravel tracks in the entire championship.
They are fairly fast but often narrow and lined with bushes, trees and rocks, leaving little margin for error. The sandy surface is swept away by each passing car to expose the rocky and abrasive base; this can combine with temperatures in excess of 30 degrees centigrade to punish cars and tyres.
Heavy showers across the region in the last few days will add to the tyre choice decisions and problems for crews.
For this year, the service park moves back from Alghero to Olbia on the island’s north-east coast. The city’s mixed-surface super special stage will again open the rally on Thursday evening.
Friday’s route is headlined by the famous Monte Lerno stage which has more than doubled in length to 31 miles. This is preceded by two shorter stages – Tantariles (last run in 2004) and Terranova – to form a loop of three tests to be repeated after midday service in Olbia.
Saturday is almost as long in terms of competitive distance with four stages run twice, while Sunday’s route is the same as in 2021 with a pair of repeated stages on the island’s northernmost tip.
After Thursday evening’s start, competitors face 19 stages totalling 320.88km before the finish on Sunday afternoon.
Thierry Neuville is determined to revive his FIA World Rally Championship title ambitions at Rally Italia Sardegna as his Hyundai Motorsport team sets its sights on securing its first victory of the season.
Neuville began his campaign with an impressive string of podium finishes but currently finds himself fifth in the championship after disappointing results in the past two rallies.
Rally Italia Sardegna – an event he has won on two occasions – presents an opportunity for him to turn his fortunes around.