The emerald coast of northern Sardinia has a rich tradition in rallying. Names such as Toivonen, Kankkunen and Markku Alén have won on local gravel stages throughout history. This year, however, the picturesque Mediterranean island took everyone by surprise. Unpredictable weather alternating between sun and rain turned much of the timed sections into mud that was nothing like the Rally Wales courses. And many of the competitors struggled to cope with the conditions.

The popular Rally Italia Sardegna is usually one of the dustiest events in the FIA World Rally Championship, but this year was different. After heavy rains before and during the rally, it was really hard to find grip on the muddy stages. In fact, the local packed gravel and sand are extremely slippery in the wet, something that many drivers complained about during the rally. Grip here, for example, is significantly lower than on the wet tracks in Wales. Full fords where the water level was higher than usual also posed another challenge for the crews and their cars. The constantly changing track conditions resulted in different tyre strategies for the WRC2 front drivers, who had to choose between a limited number of soft and hard Pirelli compounds. Driving was especially difficult on the hard compound.

"A very demanding rally," said Andreas Mikkelsen. Norweigan's Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 was slowed by a puncture on Friday. "During the day, we concentrated on avoiding problems and keeping the lead in sight," said the 2021 WRC2 World Champion. During Saturday, the Mikkelsen/Eriksen crew moved up to second place overall in the WRC2 category, 25.7 seconds behind first place. "That's too much to get ahead during the short Sunday leg," Mikkelsen was under no illusions after Saturday. He was in a relatively comfortable position, as he had more than a two-minute lead on third place. Before the final Powerstage, his gap to the leading driver grew even bigger and exceeded half a minute. The rally seemed to have been decided. However, the golden rule of rallying clearly states that it's not over until you cross the finish line. And that's exactly what happened. Fourmaux's off-course exit just a few hundred metres from the finish turned the tables in Mikkelsen's favour. The Norwegians initially didn't believe the TV footage, but then they were celebrating their first WRC2 victory on their second start of the 2023 season. “Not a nice end for Adrien. He has had a fantastic weekend,” Mikkelsen showed true sportsmanship. “But it's a win for us and we're obviously very happy."

Also worth mentioning is Friday's Monte Lerno-Sa Conchedda stage, which is the longest of this season with almost 50 km. It was on this stage that Oliver Solberg and co-driver Elliott Edmondson ran into problems, dropping to 32nd position thanks to a damaged suspension. However, thanks to a cleverly executed repair on the track, the crew managed to return to service and at least stay in the competition. While Solberg ran into trouble, his Toksport WRT teammate Sami Pajari shone. The 21-year-old Finn and his co-driver Enni Mälkönen were top of the WRC2 category after day one. "It's a nice feeling to lead, but the rally is far from over," Pajari said on Friday night. Unfortunately, he was proved right. After stage 11, it was all over for the young Finn. "We went too wide in the short left corner," Pajari explained the significant damage to the rear suspension of his Škoda Fabia RS Rally2.

WRC2 Challenger was dominated by Škoda crews. After the first leg in this subcategory, where only drivers who have not yet won a WRC2 or WRC3 title and have not previously been nominated to earn manufacturer points can score points, the Toksport WRT crew of Sami Pajari/Enni Mälkönen led the way. Kajetan Kajetanowicz/Maciej Szczepaniak of the ORLEN Rally Team took over the lead after the Finns' problems. They eventually won this subcategory ahead of another Polish crew, Mikołaj Marczyk/Szymon Gospodarczyk and Erik Cais/Petr Těšínský from Orsák Rally Sport.

Škoda crews also dominated the WRC2 Masters Cup subcategory, reserved for drivers over 50 years of age. It was dominated by the Austrians Johannes Keferböck/Ilka Minor.

More information about the Rally Italia Sardegna can be found in the press release.