The sun drenched italian isle of Sardinia offers itself up for the sixth round of the 2020 WRC calendar, the event was the penultimate event on the calendar, but on Friday, with Rally Monza added to the calendar in December; Opening the championship fight back up.
Further broke on Friday as the provisional 2021 WRC calendar was shown for the first time. Notable changes include Wales Rally GB moving to an end of August date, away from the traditional October date.
Shakedown saw drama before the event got underway as Kallee Rovanperra rolled his Toyota Yaris. The damage was minimal, but it was a setback the young Finn didn’t need before the punishing heat & dust of the Sardinian stages. Sardinia would see the return of last year’s winner Dani Sordo, who has not seen WRC competition in over six months since Rally mexico.
The opening salvo of stages on Friday saw Teemu Sunninen grab an early lead in the morning’s stages, a surprise given that the Ford Fiesta has struggled to match the pace of the Toyota’s & Hyundai’s throughout the 2020 season. 2019 champion Ott Tanak tripped up in the opening stage of the rally, a suspension issue meaning the Estonian had to limp through the opening three stages, plunging him down to 8th position at the close of Friday.
It was Dani Sordo who came back on Friday afternoon, overhauling Sunninen’s Fiesta with a commanding turn of speed as the day wore on. Thierry Neuville would have an up and down day, running a strong pace but stalling a few times and struggling initially with the set of his Hyundai i20.
Seb Ogier would sit in fourth at the end of the day with championship leader Elfyn Evans a hair’s breadth behind in fifth position. There was bad luck abound on Friday, Kallee Rovanperra after his roll during shakedown, picked up a steering issue on the penultimate stage. Teammate Takamoto katsuta came to grief after running off the road, damaging his Toyota Yaris and having to restart on Saturday under Super rally rules; while Esapekka Lappi had a dismal Friday when on stage 2 his Fiesta’s engine expired, putting him out of the rally with no chance of restarting on Saturday.
Saturday would see Dani Sordo maintain his lead, but while Sordo continued his strong turn of pace at the head of the field, the battle behind for second heated up dramatically. Teemu Sunninen after stealing an early march, found himself unable to fend off the charging Thierry Neuville & Sebastien Ogier who had found their feet on the sandy Sardinian stages, which saw Sunninen quickly dispatched by Neuville & Ogier and later on Elfyn Evans.
Sunninen’s downturn in pace was not his fault, rather, a differential issue with his Ford Fiesta which was hemorrhaging time through the stage as a result. The battle for second between Ogier & Neuville saw the pair squabble throughout the day and swap positions. Dani Sordo held his lead heading into the brief closing salvo of stages on sunday. Ogier lined up in second with Neuville just over a second behind in third & championship leader Elfyn Evans in fourth. Teemu Sunninen lay in fifth place with a handy minute 20 second advantage over Ott Tanak, still recovering from Friday’s suspension issues.
Dani Sordo continued his strong performance throughout Sunday heading into the powerstage, with Sebastien Ogier & Thierry Neuville continuing to duke it out for second place. Ogier & Neuville were able to close down on Sordo as they battled with each other, but it wasn’t enough to reel in Sordo. Elfyn Evans continued with a consistent, measured run but wasn’t able to make any inroads on Ogier & Neuville.
The power stage win and the five bonus points went to Ott Tanak with teammate Neuville in second picking up four bonus points with Ogier snatching 3 bonus points. Elfyn Evans picked up 2 bonus points with Dani Sordo claiming the remaining bonus point.
The final result saw Dani Sordo romp home to victory after a commanding performance throughout the event. Thierry Neuville finished up in second after leapfrogging Sebastien Ogier in the final stage. Elfyn Evans finishes fourth and continues to hold a strong point advantage at the head of the championship, while Teemu Sunninen rounded out the top five.
The next round of the championship takes place on the tarmac of Belgium for Rally Ypres on 19th-22nd November.
Driver championship standings.
- Elfyn Evans – 111 points.
- Sebastien Ogier – 97 points.
- Thierry Neuville – 87 points.
- Ott Tanak – 83 points.
- Kalle Rovanperra – 70 points.
Manufacturers championship standings.
- Hyundai Shell Mobis world rally team – 208 points.
- Toyota Gazoo Racing world rally team – 201 points.
- M-Sport Ford world rally team – 117 points.