Mikko Hirvonen and Elfyn Evans will be seeking further success as the M-Sport World Rally Team gear up for Alghero and next week’s Rally Italia Sardegna. The sixth round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) provides a favoured hunting ground for both drivers, and the team have their sights firmly set on a strong result.
Beyond the glitzy coastal glamour, Sardinia’s rugged mountains, ancient forests and unspoiled rural terrain make it ideal rallying territory. This year sees a move from the traditional base in Olbia to the western town of Alghero, but with 60 per cent of the stages unchanged the event has lost none of its charm.
Regarded as a technical challenge, the route may be narrow but it is also extremely fast. A thin layer of sandy gravel masks the harder surface beneath and the stages are lined with treacherous trees and rocks. Leaving little room for error, Rally Italia truly favours the brave.
Having secured six top-two finishes in Sardinia – including a win in 2012 – Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen are regarded as one of the boldest partnerships in the championship. Having made an uncharacteristic mistake on the previous outing in Argentina, the pairing came back fighting. Fearless through the tricky conditions that blighted the final day’s rallying, they looked to be in a league of their own; taking more than half a minute out of their nearest rivals through a single fog-plagued stage.
Hirvonen has a strong affiliation with Italy having spent much of 2002 competing in a number of the country’s regional events. Now, having truly reacquainted himself with the Ford Fiesta RS WRC, the Finn will be looking to channel all of his experience and skill into another strong result.
Evans also harbours a soft spot for the Italian isle. Having made his world rally car debut at the event last year, next week’s outing provides the only rally of the year at which the Welshman has already experienced the power and performance of the Fiesta RS WRC.
Mikko Hirvonen said:
“This is an event that I enjoy so I hope that we can secure another strong result next week. I know that we have the pace; we just need to ensure that we avoid any mistakes and pull everything together.
“It’s a tricky event, but I’ve done well here in the past. The roads are really technical and in some ways you could compare it to Mexico or Portugal, but the grip levels are a little different.
“The biggest difference is the view of the road. It’s difficult to read the stages and see which way the road is going which inevitably makes your recce and pacenotes all the more important. Thankfully, I’m really confident in my notes and that should hopefully play to our advantage.
“The stages are also very fast and narrow – which I like – but there are a lot of obstacles that you need to watch out for. There are a lot of rocks on the side of the road, and if it’s hot, it can be hard on the tyres so you need to ensure that you look after them.”