Rally Italia Sardegna: Two ŠKODA crews on top of WRC2 and WRC3 after tough first leg

› ŠKODA Motorsport supported Oliver Solberg (SWE) and co-driver Aaron Johnston (IRL) lead WRC3 category at the FIA World Rally Championship’s sixth round
› After six gravel stages, Swedish crew Pontus Tidemand/Patrik Barth head WRC2 category in a privately entered ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo
› WRC3 title contenders Kajetan Kajetanowicz/Maceij Szczepaniak (ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo) from Poland hold fifth category position

Alghero, 9 October 2020 – ŠKODA crews dominated WRC2 and WRC3 during the opening day of Rally Italia Sardegna (9-11 October 2020), sixth round of the FIA World Rally Championship on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia. After six tough gravel stages covering 95.25 kilometres, Swedish duo Pontus Tidemand/Patrik Barth leads WRC2 category in a privately entered ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo. Driving a similar car, ŠKODA Motorsport supported Oliver Solberg (SWE) and co-driver Aaron Johnston (IRL) go into the second leg on Saturday as leaders of WRC3 category. They are even listed in the overall standings as top-placed crew in a Rally2 class car.

Solberg started the Friday morning with a blistering drive through stage 1 “Tempio Pausania”. Although his 288 horse power ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo has roughly 100 hp less under the bonnet than the top-class world rally cars, he posted the seventh fastest time overall. “I was being honest when I said before the start, this weekend isn’t about stage times. But I got a good rhythm in there and went with the flow,” the 19 years old Swede said. A spin during the second run through this stage caused a loss of 20 seconds. Coming into Alghero’s midday service after four stages, Solberg nevertheless topped WRC3 standings. “It was not a perfect morning,” he said. “But we are leading WRC3, so I’m happy.”

Solberg started the afternoon pair of stages with a second fastest WRC3 time, one test later consolidating his category lead with a sensible drive. He arrived back in Alghero 6.4 seconds ahead of Yohan Rossel (Citroën). “It’s not been perfect, but the speed and feeling has been much better than expected,” Solberg was somehow surprised about his first rally on the Mediterranean island. He and Irish co-driver Aaron Johnston even were highest placed of all drivers of a Rally2 car.

In WRC2, ŠKODA privateer Pontus Tidemand enjoyed a tense fight with Frenchman Adrien Fourmaux (Ford) and Norwegian Ole Christian Veiby (Hyundai). The three traded times, Tidemand arriving at midday service in second position. “I have been a bit careful. For sure, I can improve my speed,” the WRC2 champion from 2017 explained his strategy for the afternoon loop. That included some precaution as well, which paid off. While Fourmaux lost more than one minute due to a puncture (SS5), Tidemand brought his ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo to the leg’s finish unscathed and took the category lead. “No trouble, but my debut at Rally Italia Sardegna wasn’t easy,“ he summed up his first day.

Polish ŠKODA crew Kajetan Kajetanowicz and co-driver Maciej Sczcepaniak, who came to Sardinia holding third spot in WRC3 points standings, finished leg one fifth in the category. The Norwegian-Austrian mixed crew of Eyvind Brynildsen/Ilka Minor brought their private ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo to the day’s finish in third position in WRC2.

Rally Italia Sardegna continues on Saturday with another six stages totalling 101.69 kilometres. After four more stages on Sunday, the winner is expected at 3:00 pm on the podium in the Sardinian harbour town of Alghero.

Standings Rally Italia Sardegna after Day 1 (WRC2)
1. Tidemand/Barth (SWE/SWE), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, 1:16:30.1 hrs.
2. Fourmaux/Jamoul (FRA/BEL), Ford Fiesta Rally2, +31.9 sec.
3. Brynildsen/Minor (NOR/AUT), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, +1:11.9 min.
4. Veiby/Andersson (NOR/SWE), Hyundai i20 Rally2, +1:25.3 min.
5. Østberg/Eriksen (NOR/NOR), Citroën C3 Rally2, +5:02.5 min.

Standings Rally Italia Sardegna after Day 1 (WRC3)
1. Solberg/Johnston (SWE/IRL), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, 1:15:42.1 hrs.
2. Rossel/Fulcrand (FRA/FRA), Citroën C3 Rally2, +6.4 sec.
3. Ciamin/Roche (FRA/FRA), Citroën C3 Rally2, +23.4 sec.
4. Huttunen/Lukka (FIN/FIN), Hyundai i20 Rally2 ,+30.9 sec.
5. Kajetan Kajetanowicz/Maciej Szczepaniak (POL/POL), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, +43.4 sec.

Number of the day: 7
During the day’s first stage, Oliver Solberg and co-driver Aaron Johnston posted seventh fastest time – overall. The ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo crew was boldly mixing with the much more powerful world rally cars.

The calendar of the 2020 FIA World Rally Championship
Monte-Carlo 23/01/–26/01/2020
Sweden 13/02/–16/02/2020
Mexico 12/03/–15/03/2020
Estonia 04/09/–06/09/2020
Turkey 18/09/–20/09/2020
Italy 08/10/–11/10/2020
Belgium 19/11/–22/11/2020
Monza/Italy 04/12/–06/12/2020

Additional info