Rally Italia (8-11 June) marks the mid-point of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship and takes the crews to the picturesque Mediterranean island of Sardinia. The scenery may be spectacular, but the sun-baked gravel tracks make for gruelling, rough and rocky competition, leaving little room for error.
Originally known as the Rally of the Flowers and dating back to 1928, Italy’s round joined the Championship in 1973 and was traditionally a mixed surface event based in Sanremo, on the mainland, before moving to Sardinia in 2004 and becoming a full gravel rally. Run during Europe’s summer months, temperatures are normally high and the hard base roads covered with a sandy surface disadvantage the early runners on the first passage. However, when the loose has been swept away, rough and rutted conditions can easily catch out the unwary. Michèle Mouton, President of the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission, claimed her first WRC victory on Rallye Sanremo in 1981 and remains the first and only female to win a round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
An impressive entry list includes three nominated crews from each of the four registered manufacturers and for the first time this season Andreas Mikkelsen will drive a 2017 specification World Rally Car, the Norwegian joining Citroën Racing for his debut outing in the C3 WRC. The fight in WRC 2 is again sure to be intense and the FIA Junior WRC Championship contenders are back in action for the second round of their series.
Three stages will be broadcast live; Saturday’s Coiluna-Loelle stage (SS13) and both runs through Sassari-Argentiera on Sunday, the second run counting for extra points as the closing Power Stage.
THE 2017 ROUTE
The rally is based out of the northwest town of Alghero but after the start and opening super special stage, the crews head to Olbia on the northeast coast for an overnight halt, allowing the organisers to re-introduce the tough Terranova and Monte Olia stages on Saturday. The mid-rally leg is the longest and toughest with 143.16 competitive kilometres run over six stages, while Sunday is identical to last year with two loops of two identical stages, culminating in the all-important Power Stage.
WHAT WE SAID…
“The heat and rough roads really define Rally Italia, making it a very tough challenge for the crews as well as the cars,” said Jarmo Mahonen, FIA Rally Director. “In these conditions it’s going to be important to mix car preservation with speed over the rock-strewn stages; the days are also lengthy and the sanctuary of service potentially a long way away for anyone who hits trouble.”
Number of stages:
312.66 km (20,89%)