The 20th edition of the Rally Italia Sardegna, sixth round of the 2023 WRC, will start this evening with the first special stage, but this morning on the 2.87 km Loiri Porto San Paolo route the Shakedown was held, a test stage in which riders and teams were able to make the final adjustments before the start of the event.
It is well known that the Italian rally is a land of conquest for Hyundai Motorsport, and also this morning the Korean cars imposed their law thanks to the first and second times obtained respectively by Esapekka Lappi and Thierry Neuville.
The Finn stopped the clock in 1’45″9 in the third and last attempt made, thus resulting in the best of all in today’s morning. Between today and tomorrow, Lappi will be observed in a special way by his team, because he will race with an unprecedented solution to the suspensions tested in the pre-event tests.
A gamble, as he himself explained, but which was taken with the precise intention of reducing the gap from the Toyota Yaris Rally1. Neuville, second with 6 tenths of a delay from his teammate, also achieved his best time in the third lap. Only Ogier, Rovanpera and Tanak – among the Rally1s – caught him on lap two.
Speaking of the 8-times world champion, he was the best Toyota driver thanks to the third time, although he was 1.2 slower than Lappi and 6 tenths slower than Neuville. Ogier will be hunting for a another victory on Italian soil after the 6 won so far in his career (4 in Sardinia, 2 in Monza).
M-Sport also showed up in Sardinia with new suspensions made by Reiger. Ott Tanak said he was happy with the progress made, but this morning the fastest of the British team was Pierre-Louis Loubet. The Frenchman achieved the same time as Ogier (in tenths), but slightly slower than his compatriot in the hundredths.
Dani Sordo, winner twice in Sardinia on a par with his teammate Neuville, set the fifth fastest time, 1″5 behind Lappi. The Toyota GR Yaris of world champion Kalle Rovanpera did not shine, sixth at 2″5 from the reference time, by Takamoto Katsuta (seventh at 2″6) and by Elfyn Evans.
The Welshman, ninth and last among the Rally1 cars, is also recovering from a terrible accident that occurred at the Rally of Portugal from which he emerged unscathed, like the navigator Scott Martin. This weekend he will have to try to respond and return to the top of the standings after leading the World Championship until the Rally of Portugal.