The second half of the 2019 FIA World Rally Championship gets underway later today with round eight of the championship, Rally Italia Sardegna.
As was the case before Rally Portugal two weeks ago, the Drivers Standings’ see a clear three-way battle at the top of the leaderboard, with Sebastien Ogier, Ott Tänak and Thierry Neuville separated by just 10 points.
Toyota driver Tänak will be the man to beat in Italy after his dominant successive victories in Chile and Portugal with the Estonian opting to slow down on the end of the Power Stage last time out to ensure he remained behind Ogier in the Championship Standings and crucially, not be first on the road throughout the opening nine stages.
This weekend sees a total of 19 stages totalling over 300km of stage miles, with a similar itinerary to 2018 awaiting the crews. The loop of eight stages on Friday is the same as last year, with Saturday’s action being headlined by Micky’s jump.
The final day of action on Sunday also sees an unchanged route to last season before the rally ending Sassari – Argentiera Power Stage.
Behind the leading trio, fourth in the Drivers Standings is Elfyn Evans, with the Welshman leading fellow Brit Kris Meeke by nine points.
Meeke comes into the Italian event on the back of a devastating last stage retirement in Portugal where he was destined for a second-place finish before he hit a tree stump.
Teemu Suninen heads into this weekend with a new co-driver in the form of Jarmo Lehitnen in the hope of using the experience of the former co-driver of Mikko Hirvonen to his advantage.
Andreas Mikkelsen in the second Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC returns to the championship for this event after being dropped for Rally Portugal, with the Norwegian competing alongside Neuville and Dani Sordo – the Spaniard believes he is capable of a podium result this weekend.
A fourth Toyota Yaris WRC will be on the Italian stages as Juho Hänninen returns to the series for the first time since 2017.
The Finn competes under the Team GRX banner for this weekend, with the Toyota test driver using the event as a form of gaining more knowledge of the Yaris for use in the future as he competes alongside Tanak, Meeke and Jari-Matti Latvala.
The WRC entrants are completed in Italy by Esapekka Lappi, who’s tough season continued with a retirement on the final day in Portugal and Martin Prokop, who enters in an older specification Ford Fiesta RS WRC.
WRC2/WRC2 PRO – Greensmith Returns as Close Battle Continues
Gus Greensmith re-joins the WRC2 PRO class this weekend after his debut in a WRC Fiesta last time out in Portugal.
The class in Italy also features championship leader Kalle Rovanperä, Mads Østberg – who is just three points behind the young Finn and Jan Kopecký, who enters his second event in 2019 in the new Skoda Fabia R5 EVO.
With WRC2 leader Benito Guerra missing from the entry list in Italy, Takamotoa Katsuta, who in recent days has been tipped for a factory WRC appearance with Toyota later in the season, has the opportunity to close the 22-point gap at the top of the standings.
Ole Christian Veiby, who’s Volkswagen Polo R5 caught fire in Portugal, returns in Italy and is one of several drivers including Nikolay Gryazin, Fabio Andolfi and young driver Marco Bulacia Wilkinson who could all have a strong result on the gravel stages this weekend.
The 2019 Junior FIA World Rally Championship returns for its third round of the season in Italy, with Tom Kristensson leading Jan Solans by 13 points after the opening pair of events.
A total of 11 entries are confirmed for Sardegna, which include drivers such as Dennis Rådström, winner last time out the Tour de Corse Julius Tannert and young British driver Tom Williams who has recently started a blog on The Checkered Flag which you can read at: https://www.thecheckeredflag.co.uk/2019/06/tom-williams-blog-proud-to-be-representing-uk-only-british-jwrc-driver/
Round eight of the 2019 FIA World Rally Championship gets underway later today and continues throughout this weekend.