Kiwi rally driver Hayden Paddon and co-driver Brit Seb Marshall are feeling fit and strong as they head to the hot, demanding roads of Rally Italia Sardegna this weekend.
The 7 to 10 June World Rally Championship event on the island of Sardegna (Sardinia) is renowned for its rugged gravel special stages and the summer heat which impacts drivers and cars.
Both Paddon and Marshall have solid experience of Sardegna’s tough conditions, with Paddon competing here for the fifth time – having made his Hyundai Motorsport debut here in 2014 – and Marshall for the fourth.
“It’s a very demanding rally,” says Paddon. “Rough stages and hot weather make it challenging for man and machine. It’s a rally we have had some success at in the past and it rewards the smart rather than outright speed. Managing tyres is key, especially as this year we effectively have four less tyres than last year.”
Paddon has had two busy weeks since the previous event in Portugal where he and Marshall ended the rally crashed into a culvert. The impact affected an old injury in Paddon’s back and he’s been working with specialists to speed up his recovery.
“I’m feeling good and strong for the rally this weekend and am happy with the progress of recovery.”
Paddon is keeping his goals for Sardegna straightforward – to have a clean rally and finish.
“If we can do that, then a good result will be possible. I’m mindful that between Portugal and Sardegna in the past, they have been somewhat bogey events for us over the last two years, so we want to put that right.”
This year, more than a third of the 313.46 km of special stages have been revised in some way.
Marshall says: “It's a demanding rally but one which I enjoy, having scored several stage wins here and led the rally in the past. The route on Friday has been changed a bit compared to last year with some familiar stages being extended or revised in places and there’s a new stage entirely to finish Friday’s 122km loop. The stages on Saturday and Sunday are largely the same as 2017 so we've got good knowledge of what to expect there.”
Rally Italia Sardegna – key facts
Rally headquarters: Alghero, on the west coast of the island
20 special stages totalling 313.46km; total distance 1386.38km
16 competitors in WRC cars
Thursday evening opens with a super special stage at the former Ittiri motocross track near Alghero.
Friday features four stages to the north-east that are driven twice for a total of 122.86km. All are familiar and include an extended version of the Tula test.
Saturday is the longest with almost 150km of competition over a tightly-clustered group of three stages in the Monte Acuto region, including the Monte Lerno stage – home to the iconic Micky’s Jump. A revised Ittiri test divides the two identical loops.
Sunday’s route is unchanged from 2017, featuring two repeated stages covering 42.04km on the coast north of Alghero.
Paddon and Marshall – in the #6 Hyundai i20 WRC car – join Hyundai Motorsport team-mates Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul, and Andreas Mikkelsen and Anders Jaeger at the seventh round of this year’s WRC.
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