Before each round of the WRC I'll take a look back in time, showing you highlights from a previous round. It can be useful to get an idea of what the rally is all about before the action starts, and this time we're going to the Italian island of Sardinia!
The Italian round of the WRC hasn't always been at Sardinia though, and this year it's ten years since they moved from San Remo and tarmac to the gravel of this island. The first year the rally had rough and twisty roads and was won by Petter Solberg, but after that they've changed the stages to more open roads.
At this part of the year the championship is still wide open, and often still quite close. In 2007 Sebastien Loeb had already won three consecutive championships, and was looking to add to that collection. Marcus Grönholm had also won the championship before and was looking like the main contender this season. Petter Solberg was struggling with the Subaru, and with only three manufacturers the WRC had seen more competetive years.
Luckily, the talents still had some teams where they could gather experience. Jari-Matti Latvala had a seat at Stobart Ford, and proved his pace on the first day as he was leading until SS3 where Grönholm went faster. On the next stage he had the opportunity to take the lead back, but hit a rock and ruined his front left suspension. Latvala out. Meanwhile, Grönholm had a broken shock absorber while Loeb was showing storming pace, and the lead changed right at the end of day 1.
On the second day Loeb and Grönholm had right about the same pace. Since Loeb still had a healthy lead he could follow the splits of Grönholm. Though he felt the pressure, Loeb didn't drop any time to Grönholm. Grönholm even lost his rear bumper (classic Grönholm), and the spare wheel! This didn't have any effect, but just shows how hard he was pushing. As the day progressed, Grönholm was disappointed and Loeb was satisfied, though the gap was about the same as the start of day 2. And this is where we jump to youtube for the action from the third and decisive day!
Other drivers in this rally is Henning Solberg, Chris Atkinson, Toni Gardemeister, Manfred Stohl, Matthew Wilson, Mads Østberg, Dani Sordo, Federico Villagra and Juho Hänninen. Latvala, Hirvonen, Østberg and Hänninen are entering this year as well. The first three will be looking for wins this time around, while Hänninen will probably try to overcome the problems of the Hyundai. Henning Solberg is also still with us, and I expect a steady drive from Solberg. He got to a semifinal in the World Rallycross Championship round at Lydden Hill in May, and it is interesting to see him doing so many events this year (thanks skruvat.se!).