GRR

2024 WRC Sardinia | 7 taking points

02nd June 2024
Ben Miles

A thrilling final stage in Sardinia saw Ott Tänak take victory from Sebastien Ogier by a time difference of two tenths of a second, after an engaging battle all weekend. Tänak now sits second in the championship being Thierry Neuville.

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The WRC can do drama like little else

Sixteen stages, two-and-a-half full days of competition and the winning margin at the end of Rally Sardinia 2024 was just 0.2 seconds. The battle between Ott Tänak and Sebastien Ogier had raged across the entire weekend, with Ogier claiming he was never pushing at a full ten-tenths, but stage times suggesting otherwise. Tänak was absolutely loving the fight, having been out of sorts for a few rallies, and when Ogier suffered another puncture (hardly helping his fractious relationship with Pirelli), none of the rest of us could believe it. 

In spite of a rather strange points system, the WRC has proven multiple times this year that it can provide drama like no other sport. 

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Tänak is back

Speaking of out-of-sorts, just like at least one commentator predicted (not me), getting back into the open surface events has brought life into the 2019 World Rally Champion. So much so that he was pushing hard on Sunday not for victory, but to try and deny his team-mate maximum Sunday points for a championship challenge. 

Yes, despite his rather unexciting start to the season – 4th, 41st, 8th, 4th – two gravel rounds have catapulted Tänak into championship contention. Of his 104 points so far this season, over 50 have come in the last two rounds alone and he sits second in the standings. His return to Hyundai vindicated and the Evans/Neuville two-way title fight blown to smithereens. 

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Evans might be letting his big chance slip away

There is a slightly different bent to this section than when I first wrote the headline half way through Saturday – obviously no one should try to predict a WRC finish over a day out. Due to Theirry Neuville’s lapse of judgement Evans is still well in the hunt, but the point actually still stands. 

When Kalle Rovanperä announced he would not be taking part in a full-time season in 2024, it seemed that this would have to be Evans’ biggest title chance. His consistency should also reward him with a steady haul of points in the new WRC system. But actually that consistency might be what is killing him. It seems the new system is really rewarding outright speed and Evans isn’t producing that killer blow. And it’s not like the latest GR Yaris isn’t a good car, three of the five rallies so far have been won by Toyotas (just not the full-time entries). If he doesn’t step up now, will he ever?

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But Neuville is grasping it

One of Evans’ problems has of course come from running early in the order due to being consistently second in the championship. Maybe dropping behind Tänak will be a good thing for the Welshman in the long run, rewarding him with an easier start with five gravel events in a row still to come.

But, maybe he also has no excuse. Theirry Neuville has had an even worse running position at most rallies, and converted it into strong points. Yes he crashed out on the Saturday of Sardinia, but at the time he was on for an absolute hatful of points. Neuville’s absolute commitment to speed has rewarded him with 12 points even from Sardinia, and an 18 point lead in the championship. Yes, that's not as many as he had before he slid down a hillside in Italy, but it’s healthy. 

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Ogier would be dominating

But, let’s be honest, Sebastien Ogier is the most impressive driver in the WRC so far in 2024. It’s true that he is benefitting from favourable running orders at times, but he is fourth in the championship and hasn’t been off the podium in any of his four events. 

If you took his average number of points per rally so far – 23 – and play that out over the full six rounds, Ogier would be 16 points ahead of even Neuville. Of course he would have had to deal with other factors, like worse running order, but it’s hard to argue that the most consistent performer of 2024 is anyone other than Ogier.

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Is the Hyundai i20 finally the best car? 

Cyril Abiteboul has been extremely outspoken about the future of the WRC, and how he absolutely would not countenance any spending toward the newly announced rules. All the manufacturers are pretty aligned with the fact that the new ideas the FIA has proposed shouldn’t move forward for the good of the sport, but perhaps Abiteboul has an ulterior motive?

Perhaps the Frenchman knows that his team has built the best car for once and doesn’t want to start from scratch in 2025. This argument is slightly undermined by the fact that Toyotas have won more than half of the rounds, but the outright speed has come from the Hyundai drivers over the last few weeks. After years of trying and trying, just when the bigwigs at Hyundai are really wondering whether to keep investing, the i20N is finally top. Now the team needs to carry it right the way through. 

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WRC is getting drone footage right, finally

Drone footage in live motorsport is a tricky thing. It looks great in the right circumstances; in the wrong position it just looks like a really wide shot of some very small cars in the distance. That has been what a lot of motorsport drone footage has looked like so far. Thanks to various regulations drones have to be a certain distance from people and moving cars, so they tend to hover alongside tracking the movement of a field of cars. When you’re doing that, a helicopter with a bigger camera and a lens capable of zooming in, is much better.

But, this week the WRC ran its drone footage differently. More in the style of the footage that Formula Drift has used so well. A single FPV drone chasing the cars from above and behind. And the footage looked spectacular. 

This is what we need more of. It showcased an awesome new angle, showed the real speed of these amazing machines and just looked damned cool. At times the drone operator was obviously able to go faster than the cars their machine was chasing, but that just meant we were able to see more angles more quickly. More of this please WRC.

 

Images courtesy of Motorsport Images. 

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