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30 Dec 2017




Text and Photos: Reinis Babrovskis

It was the Estonian Ott Tanak who claimed the victory behind the wheel of the M-Sport's Fiesta WRC on the gruesome Mediterranean rocky gravel roads in the 2017 WRC Rally Sardinia. Rally Italia – one of the toughest rallies on the calendar; the drivers love it, the fans love it, the media loves it; however, it was not all fun and games as many drivers found out.

As always Rally Italy proved to be tough on a lot of cars, teams and drivers, however, one team that really reached the boiling point was the French manufacturer Citroen. Even though the team was additionally joined by the talented Andreas Mikkelsen, he couldn't deliver the results they hoped for either. Continuing with the disastrous season Citroen really had a weekend to forget ; it really demonstrated the C3 required a fresh start on the drawing board. It wasn't just the drivers to blame; however, obviously somebody had to get the blame, and sadly for all the wrong reasons it was Northern Irish man - Kris Meeke.


Sardinia - island of the colours and beautiful rally stages. It is by far the most picturesque rally of the WRC calendar and there is no wondering why everybody loves it. Located right in the middle of the Mediterranean sea this beautiful island is full of sunshine, magnificent food and picturesque beaches. 

The beautiful landscape may be astonishing but once it comes to the Sardinian roads don't be fooled, it can get messy real quick. There may be beautiful beaches and mountains in the backdrop yet the roads are slippery and full of razor sharps rocks.

The motto for the Sardinian rally is "Jumping the Dust", and clearly it can be seen why. The stages become nothing but clouds of the warm Italian sand and gravel making it a very tricky rally indeed.

If you have never attended a gravel rally before my advise is stay as far back as you can, you don't want your rally to end in disappointment. Rocks travel in the light of speed in every direction and there are no Matrix moves that will enable you to avoid them. 

And once the day has finished, do enjoy the great nightlife of the beautiful Alghero and make a holiday at this gorgeous island.


Rally Sardinia 2017 consisted of 312 competitive kilometers on gravel and very short sections of asphalt. The terrain on the Sardinian soil is so rough a car could lose as much as 15kg from the rubber following a longer stage. Road sweeping on gravel rallies always presents a problem, but even more so here in Sardinia. It is also the slowest rally on calendar, with roads just barely in width of the car and windless weather not clearing the air. Furthermore it  is the hottest rally as well adding more physical pressure on the drivers. One of the most iconic places in the World Rally Championship is the Monte Lerno stage here in Sardinia with its famous Mickeys jump. The stage attracts thousands and thousands of fans worldwide each year.



Rally shakedown took place on the same stage as the previous year, and it is quite obvious it is really the wrong choice of stage, not only it really doesn’t represent the beautiful island of Sardinia, but also it really is a boring stage and complicated for media and spectators to gain access to. I really hope this changes for next year.

Despite nearly 300km of testing Andreas still couldn’t find any pace or confidence in the C3. And yes, whilst some might say it was due to him not being behind the wheel of a WRC car and some due to the new car, I think it was obvious the C3 really struggles. The second part of the year really proved that.

Rally officially started on Thursday evening with the side-by-side arena super-special stage. It was the Belgian Tierry Neuville who set the fastest time. Once the stage had been completed the crews headed over to the other part of the island to Olbia for the overnight stop.


Friday featured 4 stages each ran twice totaling 125.5km in the mountain areas of the northern region of the island. Ogier was first on the road sweeping the roads and struggling to set any competitive times. First victim, Martin Prokop, realised how slippy the sand can be quickly heading off road, luckily without damage.

Craig Breen had an unlucky off on stage 3 as he crashed following a compression that resulted ub a broken gearbox and oil leek, his day  and hopes for good rally results were gone.

Elvyn suffered a similiar fate; however his bad compression resulted into a slide into the trees. Rally had to be restarted the following day under theWRC2 rules. His car suffered major suspension damage and broken wheels.

Toyota’s Hanninen enjoyed the cleaner roads and claimed an early rally lead. After the morning loop the Finn brushed with the tree and his lead was gone, luckily not much time was lost and he dropped to 6th. 

Spaniard Dani Sordo turbo broke on stage 5 right after claiming fastest time on SS4. Luckily the damage wasn't terminal and it was fixed promptly.

As for our favourite, Kris Meeke - his luck came to a ground halt when on a fourth gear corner the northern Irish man's C3 rear went wide and he rolled. Both crew members were OK but left badly shaken. They managed to get the car back to his mechanics in service; however, a rollcage damage meant the rally was over for him and Paul. However, many speculated the damage was fixable but Citroen had enough blaming the drivers not the car itself.

For rest of the drivers it was about damage limitation on the brutal roads that had claimed many cars already. Thierry suffered a puncture whilst Esakeppa Lappi lost a gear in his Yaris WRC so both drivers were out of the lead pack.

Hyundai’s Kiwi driver Paddon found himself leading the rally by the end of day 1.

After Day 1

Paddon, Neuville, +8.2 Tanak +9.5



Saturday morning started with windless and very hot conditions, leaving the stages covered in dust and drivers blind. Thierry was furious claiming a driver could see bare 80 metres ahead leaving this on borderline of suicidal dangerous.

To add salt to Ogiers wound Seb picked up a pucture on SS12 and lost 2 minutes, putting him further down the list to P7. Another person suffering a puncture was Mads Ostberg. It took Ostberg 2:30 to change the tire and he was down to 8th.

Latvala was stuck behind Mads and was breathing dust for most of the stage. He was furious on the road side interview and demanded time back.

Thierry brakes failed on SS12 and the Belgian was raging: “We have no brakes, no brakes since start”. This wasn't his rally either.

Tanak was pushing harder and harder and by SS13 he was within the top 3.

Padon’s great drive came to an end when he made what he called an "amateur mistake", the Kiwi steered into a corner too early and clipped a bank that destroyed the suspension and tire of their I20. He finished the stage dragging the wheel behind and on fire. Devastating.

One of the drivers that did however avoid any accidents and demonstrated phenomenal pace during the day was Lappi.

After 15 stages and Day - Tanak became the 5th leader over the two days. Latvala behind +24.3 and Neuville in third +1:02:2.



There were 42km to do on the final leg including the beautiful beach-side power stage. It really was impossible for Latvala to catch Tanak within 4 short stages without the Estonian making any mistakes, funny enough this is exactly what Tanak did. 
A spin and good 7 seconds lost. However, Jari repeated the favour. Yaris didn’t turn in, stalled and Latvala was done and furthermore Hyundai's i20 driven by Paddon rolled and blocked the penultimate stage making it less likely for Jari to make up some time. 
Power stage was the best stage of the Sardinia featuring loose sand, beach, rocks, mountains – everything that makes this island so special. Jari repeated the same mistake as on the first run through, his Yaris WRC didn’t turn yet again. Power stage bonus points went to Lappi, Sordo, Ogier.  

So after three gruesome and challenging days it was Estonian Ott Tanak that finally claimed his maiden win. Followed b y Latvala and Neuville.


If there would be a prize for the driver of the rally in my books it most certainly would go to Esapekka Lappi; he was upsetting so many more experienced drivers by setting an unbelievable pace.




Following the Rally Citroen announced Meeke was replaced by Andreas in the following rally but will be back for later rallies, that kicked off a lot of media attention; was it really the drivers fault on every occasion this season Citroen performed weak? If a superb talented drivers like Kris, Craig and Andreas struggle to drive this tail happy vehicle could it not be a hidden issue with the C3? 

Anyhow, it was yet another amazing rally with my rally family and hopefully I will be back for some more action in 2018. WRC, I LOVE YOU!



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