Following a fantastic start to the WRC Academy season in Portugal last month, the 18 rising stars of rally, including the six Pirelli Star Drivers, are preparing for the fast and narrow stages of the Rally d’Italia in Sardinia on 5-8 May.

The Rally d’Italia, which joined the World Rally Championship in 2004, is the second round of the Academy’s six-event series and will prove to be a tough challenge for even the most well-prepared drivers, as they take on the mixture of terrain that the beautiful island has to offer.

The competitors will need to be alert at all times as they are faced with a mixture of flat open areas that quickly change into winding woodland tracks, as well as sudden water splashes and jumps that need to be approached with precision.

The hard, rock-covered road surface presents a tough challenge as well, because the soft and sandy gravel can cut up badly during the second run through the stages and expose sharp rocks: making tyre choice absolutely vital.

Representing 12 different countries from around the world, the young WRC Academy stars, including the six Pirelli Star Drivers (Fredrik Ahlin, Craig Breen, Jan Cerny, Andrea Crugnola, Brendan Reeves and Molly Taylor) are being trained by rally legends including former World Champion co-driver Robert Reid, who is delighted with the success of the Pirelli-backed initiative so far.

All eyes will be on the inaugural winner, Estonia’s Egon Kaur, who set the early pace.  The 22-year old drove to victory on the first round in Portugal but knows that he needs to be top of his game to win in Italy: Pirelli’s home rally.

Pirelli, which completed its three-year tenure as the official tyre supplier to the World Rally Championship last November, will provide its K4 gravel tyres to the young hopefuls and their co-drivers in Sardinia, who will pilot identical M-Sport Ford Fiesta R2s.

Paul Hembery, Pirelli’s motorsport director said: “At Pirelli we have always supported young and talented drivers and so we are delighted to be involved with the WRC Academy.  The ability shown in Portugal was fantastic and along with the intensive behind the scenes training that we provide in partnership with the FIA, we are confident that there is a real future for young drivers in the sport. Sardinia is an extremely challenging event though, so it’s up to the drivers to learn to use their heads as well as their accelerator pedals.”
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