For Italian rally talent Mattia Vita, Rally Italia Sardegna this weekend is the big one. Not only is it his home round of the World Rally Championship, but it also counts for double points on the Italian Junior Rally Championship, which Mattia is contesting this year in a Ford Fiesta R2T.
The prize for winning the Italian title is a scholarship towards the Junior WRC next year, which is competing in Sardinia this weekend as well. As a result, this is a perfect opportunity for Mattia to compare his speed against those who regularly compete in the category. The Junior WRC is an established path towards the very top of international rallying: previous winners include Sebastien Loeb and Sebastien Ogier.
Rally Italia Sardegna, which has been Italy’s round of the World Rally Championship since 2004, is all about dust and gravel. Based in the seaside town of Alghero to the north of the island, the stages are some of the toughest in the world, with a soft and sandy surface that covers a hard base. One of the highlights of the rally is Micky’s Jump: a spectacular jump that is a regular fan favourite. Just getting to the finish of the rally is an achievement, as it’s very hard to judge the right pace.
THE CHAMPIONSHIP SITUATION
Mattia is currently third in the Italian Junior Championship standings, but the situation could evolve rapidly over the weekend as Sardinia counts for double points, with three rounds remaining afterwards. He’s competing as part of ACI Team Italia: Italy’s national rally team, denoting the country’s most promising talent, co-driven by Massimiliano Bosi.
The rally gets underway tonight (Thursday) at 4pm from Alghero, with the first spectator super special stage. There’s an early start on Friday, before the rally concludes on Sunday after a total of 19 special stages and 310 competitive kilometres, making this the longest event that Mattia has driven.
“Without a doubt this is the highlight of the season for me, as I get to compete on my home round of the World Rally Championship on the same stages as the best drivers in the world. This weekend will also be really useful for me to assess my pace – as the regular Junior WRC drivers are also competing, so I can directly compare my times to what they are doing. The Junior WRC is where I want to be next year, so this is really useful information.
“The start of my season has gone quite well, so I’m feeling confident, but I’m fully expecting Sardinia to be the toughest event I have ever driven. The shakedown this morning showed us what to expect: rough roads, hot temperatures and massive competition. This is definitely a rally where you have to drive intelligently, especially with our road position behind the World Rally Cars. The roads are likely to be rough and rutted, so it’s going to be vital to look after the car. Our plan for the rally is to do what we’ve always done: find our pace, stay consistent, and hopefully pick up the points that we need at the end.”
DID YOU KNOW?
Rally Sardinia is one of the most popular events on the World Rally Championship calendar. Last year it scored first in the WRC rankings in terms of worldwide transmission, reaching 1515 hours. It’s a tradition for the event winner to dive into the port of Alghero after the finish on Sunday lunchtime: a refreshing cool-down from the 30-degree ambient temperatures!
Mattia Vita began his motorsport career in karting with success in his native Italy and in Europe. He went on to race single-seaters in Formula 3 before making the switch to rallying, where both his father and mother have competed in the past. Last year, he finished just off the podium in his first international season: ERC Junior U27. For this year, he’s competing as part of ACI Team Italia in Italy and abroad, with the aim of contesting the Junior WRC in 2020.