Rally Sardinia Preview – What the drivers said

While the WRC Drivers are going through the last few stages on the recce in preparation for this weekends Rally Sardinia in Italy, the teams released these quotes from them of what we could expect from the Gravel event.

Volkswagen Motorsport

Photo:D.Darrall

Photo:D.Darrall

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Motorsport, championship leader, 126 points:  “Compared to Greece, the Rally Italy could well be a bit easier on the car. The ground is sandy in parts, so very soft. The heat will play a key role at this rally, as Sardinia is usually very warm at the end of June. Given the high temperatures, we will probably go with the hard compound. However, we are also aware that the softer variant generally works better on a sandy surface. It will be all about finding the right compromise to suit the conditions we actually face when we get there. One thing is clear: after the Rally Greece, which was not particularly easy for us, we want to get back on the front foot in Sardinia.”

Photo:D.Darrall

Photo:D.Darrall

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Motorsport, second in Driver table, 74 points: “I like the Rally Italy. It has a few very quick stages. You pass very close to rocks and trees at high speed, so you have to be really accurate. The ground is actually relatively hard and stony, but is normally covered by a thick layer of sand. For this reason, the grip is not perfect and the stages become very slippery. As such, it is not easy to find a good set-up. However, I think we found a good basis in Greece. I hope I can be up there challenging for victory again at other rallies this year. However, our main goal is to score as many points as possible in the Manufacturers’ Championship. The most important thing is to be consistent and quick over the remainder of the season.”

Photo:D.Darrall

Photo:D.Darrall

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Motorsport II, 25 points: “I had an excellent weekend in Greece. To win three special stages and pick up a point on the Power Stage is a very good result – fourth place is my best finish so far in the WRC. I just want to continue as I have been doing so far. We have improved consistently since making our debut in the Polo R WRC in Portugal. As such, I am really looking forward to Sardinia.”

“You can attack more at the Rally Italy than in Greece, as the material is not subjected to such great strain. We have also taken another step forwards in terms of the set-up, thanks to the tests ahead of the Rally Italy, during which we primarily worked on the differential.”

Citroen Total World Rally Team

Photo:D.Darrall

Photo:D.Darrall

Mikko Hirvonen, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi, fourth in Championship with 61 points behind Loeb (68): “Winning in Sardinia was one of the highlights of my 2012 season.  After a series of podium finishes, I had pushed hard from the word go. My only goal was to win the rally! We have to start from scratch again this year. I think there’ll be a real fight at the front, starting in qualifying, especially as the starting positions that we choose will be used for half of the rally. After a frustrating weekend in Greece, I hope that the pieces of the jigsaw come together to enable us to secure a good result before the summer break.”

Photo: D.Darrall

Photo: D.Darrall

Dani Sordo, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi, sixth in table, 47 points: “On paper, it’s my kind of rally. I like it when the car, the tyres and the surface combine to give you a good level of grip. We have done quite a lot of work on this with the team. After Portugal and Greece, Sardinia provides us with a chance to confirm the progress we have made. But before thinking about winning, you need to produce the perfect performance and get through several stages: feel confident with the car, set a good time in qualifying to have the best possible starting position, put together a series of stages without any mistakes, etc.”

M-Sport Qatar World Rally Team

Mads Østberg, Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team, seventh in table, 46 points: “The rally we did in Norway [Rally Aurskog/Høland] was all about building our confidence and enjoying ourselves, and from that side of things, I think it was really good preparation for Sardinia. We’ve not had the best start to the season, so it was important to go to an event where there was no pressure and drive as fast as we could with no problems.”

“We’ve done well here in the past and – like at all events this year – we want to be fighting for the podium. It’s an event that I really enjoy. It suits us and it suits the car so I know that we can fight for a good position. We just need to find a good rhythm and bring that same enjoyment that we had in Aurskog/Høland. It will be an intense event for sure. It’s a lot earlier in the year than usual so the heat will take its toll and the days are also very long with lots of stages, early mornings and late finishes. But we should be OK – we just need to ensure that we look after ourselves as well as the car! The stages are also very technical so you need to be very precise in your driving and make sure that the pacenotes are as detailed as they can be. Hopefully this could be our rally!”

Photo: D.Darrall

Photo: D.Darrall

Evgeny Novikov, Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team, 31 points: “We’ve done well here in the past so I’ll be hoping to do well again this year. I think we proved in Greece that we can challenge at the top of the field. We set a good pace and won a lot of stages which is something we’ll be looking to build on in Sardinia. Of course this is another really challenging event. The stages can be quite slippery so it’s important to settle into a good rhythm from the very first stage. There can also be a lot of rocks on the side of the road that you need to look out for – it’s not so easy to recover from a mistake here! As always we will try our best. If you look at what happened last year, a lot of the front runners were caught out. Hopefully everything will come together for us as it did last year and we will be able to secure another good result for the team.””

Photo:D.Darrall

Photo:D.Darrall

Thierry Neuville, Qatar World Rally Team, fifth in table, 50 points: “Sometimes when the confidence is high after a strong result (third in Greee), it’s tempting to push a little bit harder – but that is when mistakes can happen, especially on an event like this where the stages are very challenging. So for us, the plan will be to continue with the same approach we have had for the past two events – drive clever and make sure we get to the end of the event with as much experience as possible.”

“This isn’t my favourite rally of the year. The stages are quite technical and very narrow which makes it difficult for the driver. You have very few chances to slide the car wide and if you make a mistake and do run wide, it can be costly. There can be a lot of stones on the line which you need to be aware of and a good set-up is very important if you are to challenge for the top times. After Sardinia, Nicolas and I will be competing in Ypres with the Fiesta R5 which I’m really looking forward to. We will be driving as a ‘VIP’ car so there won’t be so much pressure. It will just be about going there to have fun and prove how competitive – and reliable – the car is. It’s been a long time since we’ve driven in the Belgian Championship, so it will be great to show the R5 off to the home fans.”

 Elfyn Evans, Qatar World Rally Team, making his RS WRC début: “This is another absolutely fantastic opportunity for me and I want to say a huge thank-you to Nasser and Malcolm for considering me for the drive. It will be great to get back behind the wheel in competition, but it will certainly be a challenging event! This will be my first time in Sardinia, my first time in a WRC car and my first time with Giovanni [Bernacchini, co-driver]. But with the team behind me and Giovanni’s extensive experience, I know that I will be in capable hands.”

“My aim for the event is just to enjoy it and gain further experience. I’m learning all the time, and if I can make it through all of the stages on this tricky event then I’ll be happy. The most important thing at the moment is to get as much competitive seat time as possible, and that will be my main goal this weekend.”

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