Sebastian Loeb decided to compete at Rallye Vosges leaving his colleagues at Rally Italia Sardegna.
Hyundai Motorsport fans’ loyalties will be split this weekend as Sebastien Loeb heads for Rallye Vosges –– Grande Est in France, leaving his colleagues to round eight of the WRC at Rally Italia Sardegna.
The nine-time world champion is delighted to be competing on the Alsatian roads on which he grew up, while Thierry Neuville, Dani Sordo and Andreas Mikkelsen tackle the tough tracks inland from Alghero on the Italian island of Sardinia.
While Loeb’s WRC programme for the second half of the season has yet to be decided, he will tackle the French national event this weekend and Rally di Alba in Italy at the end of July. He drives both events in a factory-specification i20 World Rally Car.
Loeb said: “It is a real pleasure to return to the French Rally Championship and to be able to ride in my region where it all began. I’m really looking forward to it and to find the special stages like Pays d’Ormont.
“We are going to gain experience with the team and kilometres with the car and to please the fans.”
Loeb enjoyed some of his finest WRC moments in the Alsace region, memorably winning the 2010 world title and celebrating with friends and family in his home town of Haguenau.
Hyundai Motorsport director Andrea Adamo said Loeb’s national outings were a great way of spreading the word for the Korean manufacturer.
He said: “Loeb in Vosges will be a great image for Hyundai France, which has already made a lot of activation from this programme. We will have lots of guest co-drivers at shakedown and we bring lots of guests to the rally.”
Loeb is scheduled to contest six WRC rounds with Hyundai this season. Vodafone Rally de Portugal earlier this month was his fifth start.
Meanhwile, why change a winning formula? That’s the message from Rally Italia Sardegna organisers whose route for this week’s eighth round of the WRC follows a popular format in the north of the island.
Tiziano Siviero, who won the 1988 and 1999 world titles alongside fellow countryman Miki Biasion, is the man behind the itinerary and explained his thinking to make only minor changes to the route.
“We decided to confirm the itinerary of the past three editions because they are homogeneous, easy to run and met the appreciation of drivers and teams,” he explained.
Easy to run, maybe, but far from easy to drive. Narrow and fast rock-lined gravel roads leave no margin for error. Sandy tracks give way to bedrock and big ruts when they are repeated and air temperatures above 30°C make life tough for drivers, cars and tyres.
The rally begins at Thursday night’s short Ittiri Arena show stage, at a former motocross track where two cars at a time tackle two laps.
The action gets serious on Friday morning with four stages north-east of the Alghero service park that are repeated in the afternoon.
Tula (22.25km), regarded as the most difficult test of the weekend, and Castelsardo (14.72km) both contain minor changes. Tergu-Osilo (14.14km) and Monte Baranta (10.99km) lift the day’s total to 124.20km.
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