BRENTWOOD, England - The 2013 FIA World Rally Championship resumes on the sun-kissed island of Sardinia this weekend with eight Ford Fiesta RS WRCs taking part.
Rally Italia Sardegna is one of the most unforgiving fixtures on the 2013 calendar. The stages might not be as abrasive as the previous round in Greece, but their narrow and technical nature means that even the smallest of mistakes can have huge repercussions.
Fresh from victory at Rally Aurskog/Høland – fifth round of the Norwegian Rally Championship – Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson will be full of confidence and looking to put their previous misfortunes well and truly behind them.
The Norwegian has a strong track record at the Italian event. Securing fifth place in 2011 and fourth on the event last year, Østberg will be keen to do one better as he seeks a podium finish this weekend.
After leading his first WRC event in the opening phases of the Acropolis Rally, Østberg’s team mate, Evgeny Novikov, is another driver with a point to prove. Setting the fastest time on five of the Greek event’s speed tests, the Russian has proved that he is capable of performing at the head of the field.
Novikov also has good form in Sardinia: securing a creditable fifth place on his 2009 debut and claiming the second step of the podium on last year’s outing. Partnered by Austrian co-driver Ilka Minor – who navigated the Muscovite to his second-placed finish last year – the pairing will be looking for much of the same this week.
In the Qatar World Rally Team, Thierry Neuville won’t let the success of his second podium of the year go to his head. Ever composed, the Belgian vows to adopt another cautious approach for this event – maximising the opportunity to make further strides behind the wheel of his Fiesta RS WRC.
Partnered by fellow Belgian Nicolas Gilsoul, the pairing will be back to competition sooner than some might imagine as they contest the Geko Ypres Rally (27 – 29 June) as a ‘VIP’ car with M-Sport's latest challenger, the Ford Fiesta R5. Indeed the young duo are the perfect candidates to showcase the speed and reliability of the all-new Fiesta – their knowledge of the specialist event sure to shine on the sixth round of the European Rally Championship.
It’s all change in the sister Qatar World Rally Team Fiesta as commitments in Qatar saw Nasser Al-Attiyah forced to forfeit his Rally Italia entry. Proactive in his support of talented youngsters, the Qatari saw it only right that his Fiesta RS WRC be offered to M-Sport’s 2012 FIA WRC Academy Cup Winner, Elfyn Evans; thus giving the Welshman his competitive debut in a World Rally Car.
Another driver with a mature head on his shoulders, Evans won’t squander the opportunity. This will be his debut at the Italian event – let alone behind the wheel of M-Sport’s top-specification Fiesta – and his first time with the Latin accent of Giovanni Bernacchini behind the notes. Given the obvious challenges, the Welshman aims to adopt a cautious approach to gain as much as he can from the experience.
The rally begins with free practice and a qualifying stage on Thursday morning and concludes Saturday evening after 16 stages boasting 304.4 km of flat out action.