Italyís WRC counter was formerly a mixed surface event based in Sanremo, and known as the Rally of the Flowers when it was first held in 1928.
It formed part of the WRC from the championshipís beginning in 1973.
Michele Mouton became the first and only woman to win a WRC round when she triumphed in 1981.
The rally moved to the Mediterranean island of Sardinia in 2004.
Whatís new for 2015
An overnight halt on Thursday in Cagliari.
Saturdayís leg is the longest in the WRC since 2012.
Less than a third of the stage distance is the same as 2014.
WRC+ : Live Stages/Live Maps/Onboard Action/Full Highlights plus.wrc.com/
Dani Sordo edged out Kris Meeke to set fastest time in Thursday morning's shakedown at Rally Italia Sardegna.
In dry and sunny conditions, Meeke looked set to top the timesheets through the Putifigari test in Citroens DS 3 until Sordo went quickest by 0.2sec on the third of his four runs in a Hyundai i20.
"We were working with the suspension to have better grip for the rally," said Sordo. "The stage was really rough at the end, not with stones but with the soft surface. It was difficult to find the right line.
"The roads werenít so representative of the rally. The first 2km was OK, but the end was completely different. But this rally has a lot of different characteristics so it's difficult to say what is normal," added Sordo, whose i20 was fitted with Michelinís soft compound tyres.
Mads Ostberg was 0.9sec behind Sordo in third in Citroens second DS 3, with Volkswagen Motorsport duo Sebastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala tied a further 0.2sec back. Thierry Neuville completed the top six in another i20, emerging from his final run with rear bodywork damage after sliding wide and striking a tree.
Most of the frontrunners completed only the minimum required three runs and the stage became increasingly quicker, with most drivers posting their fastest time in their final pass.
The sixth round of the FIA World Rally Championship is based in Alghero and starts tonight with a 2.50km super special stage in the harbour area of Cagliari, the islands capital city.
Martin Prokop was the surprise winner of Thursday night's opening special stage at Rally Italia Sardegna when he sped to fastest time over the harbour roads in the island's capital city, Cagliari.
Tens of thousands of fans saw the privately-entered Czech driver go quickest by 1.3sec in a Ford Fiesta RS, outpacing Robert Kubica's similar car in the two-at-a-time 2.50km asphalt test.
Dani Sordo, fastest this morning at shakedown, was second quickest in a Hyundai i20 but the Spaniard incurred a 10sec penalty for a jump start to drop him well down the order.
Andreas Mikkelsen was third in a Volkswagen Polo R, 1.7sec behind Prokop. The Norwegian beat Thierry Neuville in their heat but the Belgian was fourth, a further 1.2sec behind in his i20.
Ott Tanak was tied with Neuville but the Estonian reported a handbrake problem in his Fiesta RS, while Citroen's Mads Ostberg rounded off the top six in a DS 3.
Both Kubica and Lorenzo Bertelli had to stop and reverse after missing a tight junction, while Khalid Al Qassimi hit the right rear wheel of his DS 3 on a kerb.
After overnighting in Cagliari, competitors restart at 06.30 tomorrow. Friday's route is totally new as it heads up the west coast via Oristano towards the rally base in Alghero, which hosts a mid-leg service. Four morning gravel stages are repeated in the afternoon, with an extra test taking the competitive distance to 133.50km.
Hayden Paddon was fastest through Friday morning’s opening two speed tests at Rally Italia Sardegna to lead this sixth round of the FIA World Rally Championship by 19.8sec.
The Kiwi enjoyed cleaner roads offered by a low start position to win Grighine Sud by 5.3sec in his Hyundai i20, before outpacing the field by 11.0sec in Grighine Nord.
"It was an advantage," admitted Paddon. "We were surprised by our speed in SS2 so we calmed down in the next one and didn’t take big risks, just following the line. We hit a massive rock in SS2 that pitched us in the air and again in this one, so we were a bit lucky," he said.
Overnight rain left the gravel roads damper and cooler than expected and those who gambled on including soft tyres in their selection this morning benefited. One of those was Paddon, who had two softs on the rear of his car.
Second fastest in SS3 promoted Jari-Matti Latvala into second in his Volkswagen Polo R. The Finn admitted he also benefited from the early starters sweeping the roads. "Ogier was suffering no doubt, there is so much loose gravel," he said.
Championship leader Ogier was second in SS2 but eighth in the more slippery SS3, and held fourth, 22.3sec off the lead. "It was terrible, a lot of gravel and it was like driving on ice. But Im happy, I couldnt have driven better," said the Frenchman, who is 0.8sec behind team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen.
Ott Tanak was fifth although the Estonian reported 'something strange' at the front of his Ford Fiesta RS. Dani Sordo was sixth and without last nights jump start penalty, the Spaniard would have been second.
Citroens Kris Meeke was the first casualty. The Ulsterman went off the road 8.77km into SS2 and broke his DS 3’s rear left suspension. He was joined by Robert Kubica, the Pole going off in SS3 after missing his braking into a chicane.
Elfyn Evans dropped 45sec in SS3 with no drive in his Fiesta RS, while Khalid Al Qassimi was already four minutes off the lead after tackling SS2 with no power.
New Zealand's Hayden Paddon won three of the four special stages to lead Rally Italia Sardegna after the opening morning on Friday.
Having won the first two stages, the Hyundai i20 driver completed his hat-trick in the Montiferru test before wrapping up the morning with fifth in Sagama. He reached service in the rally base of Alghero with a 23.0sec lead.
"To be leading is amazing," he said. “It’s a lot more than we were aiming for this morning. It will be rougher this afternoon and we need to look after the car."
Jari-Matti Latvala retained second, the Finn happy but promising more in his Volkswagen Polo R. "Generally it's been an OK morning. I’m quite satisfied but I know I can improve my driving," he said.
Sebastien Ogier climbed to third when team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen retired after breaking the rear right suspension. The Norwegian hit a hole in SS3 and completed Montiferru with the rear of the car dragging along the ground. He made repairs but stopped on the liaison section with no fuel pressure.
Road opener Ogier was content, having spent the morning sweeping gravel from the road. He was only 2.1sec behind Latvala. "Unfortunately there wasnt quite enough rain for me but I could have lost more time and I’m happy with my tyre strategy," said the Frenchman.
Dani Sordo was fourth, although the Spaniard was frustrated at losing 1.6sec to stage winner Ogier in Sagama. He was 9.9sec behind the championship leader and 4.0sec ahead of Hyundai team-mate Thierry Neuville.
The Belgian was second in Montiferru despite stalling at a hairpin and drove Sagama with a flat tyre after a second deflation of the morning. Ott T?nak was 2.4sec behind in sixth in a Ford Fiesta RS with Martin Prokop and Mads Ostberg next.
Citroen's Ostberg dropped 45sec after puncturing the rear right tyre and breaking the wheel on his DS 3 when he slid wide and hit a rock in a narrow corner. WRC 2 leader Paolo Andreucci and Esapekka Lappi completed the leaderboard.
Elfyn Evans was 17th after his problems were traced to a broken driveshaft while Khalid Al Qassimi was even further down after a problem filled morning in his DS 3.
Jari-Matti Latvala and Ott Tanak claimed the stage wins as Rally Italia Sardegna returned to the gravel after the mid-leg service but Hayden Paddon continued to top the leaderboard.
Latvala was fastest through the repeated Sagama test by 2.1sec in his Volkswagen Polo R from Dani Sordo. The Finn was 4.2sec clear of Paddon to reduce the Hyundai driver’s lead to 18.8sec.
Ott Tanak overshot a hairpin but regained the lost time when he won the Sinis - Mont E Prama test in his Ford Fiesta RS. He was 2.2sec clear of Paddon, who reclaimed 1.1sec from Latvala to widen his lead to 19.9sec.
Latvala stiffened his car's suspension for the afternoon tests, four of which are repeats from this morning, and was 3.5sec clear of team-mate Sebastien Ogier, whose road cleaning role for today is completed.
Tanak, who struggled to find a rhythm this morning, gave himself a pep talk before Sinis which seemed to do the job. "I tried to tell myself I had to go fast and it was quite OK. I was happy with my driving," said the Estonian, who climbed ahead of Thierry Neuville into fifth.
Paddon, the first New Zealander to lead a WRC round outside his home country, acknowledged the day was about to become tougher. "Its not been a bad day so far, but I think the real test will come on these repeat stages," he said.
Ogier was third in both tests but admitted his driving wasn’t perfect in SS7. "I wasn’t confident enough to take risks," said the Frenchman, who also suggested he might have a clutch problem in his Polo R.
Jari-Matti Latvalaís hopes of reeling in Rally Italia Sardegna leader Hayden Paddon suffered when he hit a bank and punctured a tyre midway through Friday's penultimate stage.
The Finn was tied on time with Volkswagen team-mate Sebastien Ogier at the midpoint, but dropped 21.9sec in the second half as he limped through with a damaged rear left tyre on his Volkswagen Polo R.
"It was my mistake," he admitted. "I came too fast into a chicane and hit it. The impact pushed the car into a bank on the exit and it knocked the tyre off the rim."
Latvala won the previous Grighine Sud stage but the time loss dropped him 18.2sec behind Ogier into third. He is 38.2sec adrift of Hyundai i20 driver Paddon.
The New Zealander was third through SS8 and second in SS9 and heads into today's final stage 20.0sec ahead of Ogier.
"This one was a lot more slippery than the previous stage," said Paddon at the finish of SS9. "I was sliding around and lost rhythm in the last section."
Ogier won SS9 but confirmed he was carrying a clutch problem on his Polo R. "It's a small problem and at the moment itís not costing me time," said the Frenchman.
Dani Sordo retained fourth despite an anti-roll bar issue but Hyundai team-mate Thierry Neuville was in trouble. The Belgian dropped 50sec limping through SS9 with no power. "I can drive slowly, but Iím not sure I can finish the day," he said.
He remained sixth but Mads Ostberg, who moved ahead of Martin Prokop, was just 3.0sec behind. Prokop was lucky to emerge from SS9, having hit a compression which threw his Ford Fiesta RS off the road and into a bush.
Hayden Paddon surprised the expected pacesetters to lead Rally Italia Sardegna after Friday's opening leg.
He won three of the four morning rough road gravel speed tests to build an advantage he defended this afternoon to head FIA World Championship leader Sebastien Ogier by 8.8sec. Jari-Matti Latvala was 25.8sec behind in third.
Paddon's low start position gave him a morning advantage of roads swept clean of loose gravel by those ahead. But he maintained his pace in equal conditions this afternoon and earned the accolade of being the first New Zealander to lead a WRC round outside his home country.
However, he survived a last stage scare. "Something broke on the right rear of the car with half the stage to go. Then in one corner the back of the car went sideways and hit a bank. We decided to take it easy afterwards so we lost a bit of time".
"It was an amazing day and we have a road position advantage again tomorrow morning, so if we can benefit from that who knows what will happen," said the Hyundai i20 driver.
Road opener Ogier had the worst of the conditions, sweeping the gravel all morning in his Volkswagen Polo R. However, a clever tyre strategy limited the losses and two stage wins kept him on Paddon's tail.
Rally Italia Sardegna leader Hayden Paddon gave little encouragement to closest challenger Sebastien Ogier through Saturday morning's opening two speed tests.
The New Zealander was right on the pace and yielded 1.4sec in the opening Ittiri Arena stage and 0.3sec in Monti di Ala’ to head the Frenchman by 7.1sec.
"I'm trying not to think about the situation but the long road sections don’t help," said the Hyundai i20 pilot. "Once I’m in the stages then everything is normal. There was a lot of bedrock coming through in the road already."
Ogier was second in SS12. "The second half was better than the first, when I didn't find the rhythm. I'm happy with my tyre choice but to be sure we have to wait until the end of the loop," said Ogier, who has a mix of hard and soft compound Michelin tyres.
Jari-Matti Latvala was fastest in Monti di Ala', 2.8sec ahead of Volkswagen Polo R team-mate Ogier. The Finn was in confident mood at the finish, but admitted his pace notes were too fast in places and he lost time by being too sideways.
Robert Kubica reported an intercom problem which meant he only heard co-driver Maciek Szczepaniak intermittently.
Hayden Paddon increased his lead over S?bastien Ogier at Rally Italia Sardegna after outpacing him through the two longest and toughest special stages of the weekend.
The Hyundai i20 driver was second in both the Coiluna - Loelle and Monte Lerno tests to widen his advantage from 7.1sec to 9.9sec.
The Kiwi was surprised by his times. "We struggled a bit in the first one because it was quite damp and I think we could have got away with leaving soft tyres on the rear. In the second stage the pace notes didn't flow and we had understeer," he said.
Having begun this morning fifth in the start order, the retirements of Andreas Mikkelsen and Dani Sordo ahead meant Ogier was cleaning the roads of gravel. He was fourth in Coiluna, after almost stalling at a hairpin, and third in Monte Lerno.
“I knew I would lose time to Hayden because there are only two cars ahead and it's very slippery," said the Volkswagen Polo R pilot after SS14. "He's driving fantastically and using his road position advantage well. I’ll have no problems with cleaning when we repeat the stages this afternoon so that will be the time to attack."
Ott Tanak spun in SS14 but climbed to third in his Ford Fiesta RS, 1min 08.9sec off the lead after Jari-Matti Latvala encountered tyre issues in the previous stage.
"I came over a jump and landed a bit sideways and the tyre came off the rim. There was too much load on the wheel. I thought it might be something with the damper so we ran but then realised it was time to stop," said the Finn. He lost more than two minutes and slid to fifth overall.
Citroen's Mads Ostberg was fourth after winning Coiluna but dropped time in the next test with a slow puncture on his DS 3.
Thierry Neuville went off briefly near the end of SS14 after power steering problems in his i20 in the previous test and Robert Kubica stopped to change a puncture.
Mikkelsen retired after ripping a wheel from his Polo R, Sordo failed to start SS14 after fuel pump problems in the previous test and Martin Prokop retired his Fiesta RS with low oil pressure.
After more than 110km of fierce action at Rally Italia Sardegna on Saturday morning, leader Hayden Paddon extended his overnight advantage on Sebastien Ogier – by 0.5sec!
Ogier ended the loop by reclaiming 0.6sec when he was second in the Ozieri - Ardara stage, despite a small error in his Volkswagen Polo R near the beginning.
“I lost maybe a second because I was much too far off the line on a left hand bend. My notes were not really good, but the morning was good,” said Ogier, who swept gravel from the roads after the retirement of two cars ahead in the start order.
Paddon was third fastest and reflected on an excellent morning in his Hyundai i20.
“It was really, really good. We had a small advantage with road position but Ogier has a pretty big advantage with knowledge. It’s going to be rough this afternoon and that will be hard on the car. Finishing is our priority and we want to look after the car, so we’ll raise the ride height a little,” he said.
Ott Tanak was almost a minute behind Ogier in third in his Ford Fiesta RS, with Citroen’s Mads Ostberg fourth in his DS 3, a further 1min 21.7sec adrift.
Jari-Matti Latvala won the stage to close the gap on Ostberg to 7.8sec and the Finn has his sights set on climbing back up the order after knocking a tyre off the rim of his Polo R earlier in the morning.
Thierry Neuville was sixth, the Belgian falling back after incurring a 40sec penalty as he worked to repair a power steering problem in his i20.
Elfyn Evans was seventh, the Welshman still struggling to get to grips with the rally, and the leaderboard was completed by the WRC 2 trio of Paolo Andreucci, Yurii Protasov and Yazeed Al Rajhi.
Sebastien Ogier took the lead of Rally Italia Sardegna on Saturday afternoon when Hayden Paddon spun away his slender advantage.
The Kiwi had led since yesterday morning but spun his Hyundai i20 a third of the way into the Monti di Ala' test.
“At a right bend coming into a hairpin, the rear of the car got away and we spun at the hairpin,” he said. “That wasn’t a big problem, but the engine wouldn’t restart and we lost about 10sec. Then we saw Ott stopped and decided to take it easy to protect the car. It’s too rough to push, so now we cruise.”
Ogier was fastest in his Volkswagen Polo R but admitted: “It was very abrasive and I didn’t push to the maximum to try to save the tyres. Maybe I was too cautious,” he said.
Ott Tanak was also in trouble. The Estonian yielded third when his Ford Fiesta RS stopped with its gearbox stuck in sixth and he seemed destined to retire.
That promoted Citroen’s Mads Ostberg into third, the Norwegian 2min 15.0sec behind Paddon but happy to finish the stage. “There were so many big rocks, some on absolutely flat sections. I had to hit some of them. We had to choose between hitting them or going off the road,” he said.
Jari-Matti Latvala climbed to fourth but the Finn was concerned about possible damage to his Volkswagen Polo R. “There was a loose rock in the middle of the road. It was a fast place over a crest and I aimed at the centre of the car, but it might have hit something underneath,” he said.
Kris Meeke was third fastest but reported his gearbox was shifting slower than normal, while Robert Kubica retired after the stage with his Fiesta RS stuck in fifth gear.
Thierry Neuville won the previous short Ittiri Arena test in his i20, 0.8sec faster than Meeke. Nasser Al-Attiyah was third, a further 0.2sec adrift.
Sebastien Ogier headed Rally Italia Sardegna following a car-breaking Saturday that ended in heartbreak for long-time leader Hayden Paddon.
Ogier completed the WRC’s longest day since 2002 with a 2min 13.6sec advantage in his Volkswagen Polo R over Paddon, who had his lead wiped out after a spin and fell back further after hitting a rock.
The duo were neck and neck through this morning’s 110km of rough road special stages east of Alghero. Paddon enjoyed better road conditions in his Hyundai i20 and extended his 8.8sec overnight lead by half a second.
But when the Kiwi spun and stalled his engine in a hairpin on this afternoon’s second stage, the Frenchman took the lead and extended it when Paddon struck a rock in the next test.
“Two fantastic days for me,” said Ogier, who is the only top-line driver not to encounter problems. “I never said leading was impossible, but I knew my chances were small. A lot of things happened today and it was very rough this afternoon.”
Paddon patched up his car and dropped 1min 45sec limping through the final 42km Monte Lerno stage to retain second from Mads ōstberg by 1min 12.0sec.
“I don’t want to be a drama queen but when it happened it ripped my heart out,” said Paddon, chasing a maiden WRC win. “We hit a big rock on the driving line and I thought there was no way we could go on, but we strapped it up as best we could.”
Ostberg won two stages in Citroen’s DS 3 but two slow punctures cost 90sec. He was 31.4sec clear of Thierry Neuville’s Hyundai i20, the Belgian surviving a power steering problem which cost a 40sec penalty as he repaired it.
Elfyn Evans had a better day in his Ford Fiesta RS to hold fifth with Jari-Matti Latvala sixth in another Polo R after winning three stages. However, he dropped two minutes changing a tyre after knocking it off the rim in a heavy landing, and five minutes after hitting a rock and breaking the suspension.
The leaderboard was completed by WRC 2 quartet Yurii Protasov, Paolo Andreucci, Jan Kopecky and Yazeed Al Rajhi.
Ott Tanak retired from third with his Fiesta RS stuck in sixth gear, Andreas Mikkelsen ripped a wheel from his Polo R and Dani Sordo stopped with low fuel pressure. Robert Kubica went out with gearbox problems, Martin Prokop exited with low oil pressure and Lorenzo Bertelli had a recurrence of yesterday’s oil leak.
Sunday’s final leg is the shortest of the rally. It comprises two identical loops of two stages north of Alghero covering 45.80km. The final Cala Flumini test comprises the live TV Power Stage with bonus points for the fastest three drivers.
Thierry Neuville demoted Mads Ostberg from third in Sunday’s opening stage at Rally Italia Sardegna when the Norwegian went off the road and damaged his DS 3.
It cost Ostberg a minute and he then conceded fourth to Elfyn Evans as he limped through the following test 1min 20sec off the pace. He completed the loop 25.3sec behind the Welshman’s Ford Fiesta RS.
“There were a lot of things happening at the same time. I lost an ear plug in my intercom on a straight and was trying to put it back in place. I had a very bad pace note for the next corner, went wide and off the road. The damage wasn’t too bad but I lost my brakes,” said Ostberg after the incident.
However, the damage proved worse than he thought. “It’s more than the brakes. I don’t know what, but we have to learn more about the problem,” he added at the end of Cala Flumini.
Yurii Protasov lost the WRC 2 lead and seventh to Paolo Andreucci in SS20 after a puncture in his Ford Fiesta RS. However, a radiator leak hampered the Italian and Protasov regained the initiative by 1.7sec in the next test.
Sebastien Ogier claimed his fourth victory of the FIA World Rally Championship season at Rally Italia Sardegna on Sunday.
The Frenchman extended his points lead by winning the four-day rough road event by 3min 05.4sec in a Volkswagen Polo R. Long-time leader Hayden Paddon secured a career best result in second in a Hyundai i20.
Thierry Neuville took the final podium place in another i20. The Belgian was 4min 22.5sec behind Ogier after demoting Mads Ostberg in the final morning.
Ogier won the final live TV Power Stage to claim three bonus points. Jari-Matti Latvala took two and Andreas Mikkelsen one to earn a clean sweep for Volkswagen Motorsport.
Next Rnd 7 - Rally Poland, July 2-5 2015
First established in 1921, Rally Poland is one of the world’s oldest rallies.
It was included in the inaugural WRC season in 1973 when there were only three classified finishers. Four other crews completed the route but were excluded for being out of time.
It left the calendar and became an asphalt event in the European Championship.
It returned to WRC in 2009 when Mikko Hirvonen won, after which it was again removed.
It returned to the championship for a second time in 2014.
What’s new for 2015
Pretty much everything – almost 90 per cent of the route has changed from last year.
No stages in Lithuania – the cross-border part of the route has been axed.
The 39.12km Stanczyki stage, which will be driven twice during Friday’s opening leg, is the longest in Poland’s rallying history.