WRC – Will the reduced format of the Sardinia Rally have an impact on the drivers?

WRC – Will the reduced format of the Sardinia Rally have an impact on the drivers?
WRC – Will the reduced format of the Sardinia Rally have an impact on the drivers?

To save its skin, the WRC is trying more or less original things. At least you can’t blame them for trying! This weekend, a new experiment will take place during the Sardinia Rally (May 31-June 2): a short format event, condensed over three days (or 48 hours, to make it more sales), from Friday afternoon to Sunday noon. On the Italian island, only 16 special stages will be on the program (compared to 21 last year) for a route shortened to just 266 kilometers (compared to 320 in 2023).

This is the first time that the championship has attempted a shorter format – a Sprint format, we can say – in order to energize the weekend and give increased importance to all the special stages. By combining this new program with the new points scale introduced this season, the first two days of racing will be of crucial importance.

An already crucial Friday at the Sardinia Rally?

Friday in particular, since the drivers will have to be at full strength from the first kilometers in order to obtain the best starting position the next day. An essential starting position because Saturday – which represents no less than 56% of the entire course – will be completed without assistance between the two loops! Sunday will include two short stages, to be covered twice (a total of less than 40 kilometers), with the Power Stage returning to Argentiera beach. A “Super Sunday” worthy of the name!

In Sardinia, the calculators will have to stay in the cupboard (except for counting the points, at the end of the rally): the attack will be the watchword from SS1, where the 8 crews entered in Rally1 will not have to drive at the same time. economy, which could shake things up in the ranking (with higher chances of punctures?).

“It will be interesting to see the new, more compact format in action in Sardinia: it will be a shorter event but not an easier rally, with long days and still quite a few kilometers, and I think it could be even more exciting , says Jari-Matti Latvala, Toyota Team Principal. Saturday afternoon is particularly long and difficult with the famous Monte Lerno stage, and tire management and rock avoidance will be the key to success. »

Errors that are even more penalizing?

The slightest mistake could actually be paid for in cash: with five stages less than in 2023, there are also five fewer chances of making up for a mistake, catching up with a competitor or widening the gap. Enough to force the drivers to change their approach ahead of the weekend? Not really.

“Our approach to the weekend is the same as always: we will strive to achieve the best possible result taking into account the conditions, the car and other important factors that can influence a rally, underlines Thierry Neuville. There is no testing before the event and the shakedown is not at all representative of the rest of the rally, so this will be the biggest obstacle for us. However, we will work to overcome this obstacle and bring home the best possible result. »

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