Rally News

Did the WRC’s shorter sprint-style format work?

Sardinia served up action and excitement aplenty into its shorter format

Now that the dust has settled on an event that delivered the joint-closest finish in WRC history, the championship and the FIA will evaluate how the 48-hour, 266.12km format performed.

This trial was the latest step the WRC is undertaking to improve its overall appeal by offering event organisers more options when it comes to rally formats, instead of the 300-kilometre-plus distance that has become the norm in recent years. The other by-product of a shorter event also is also a slight cost-saving for teams, with personnel required to be on-site later than normal.

It is hoped that, starting from next year, the calendar will provide the WRC more storytelling options. The shorter concept trialled in Sardinia may be complemented by the prospect of endurance rallies covering more than five days, in addition to the traditional three or four-day format. It would be fair to suggest that the majority agree this would be a step forward for the WRC.

This year’s Rally Sardinia was 54km shorter than 2023’s event, comprising 16 stages compared to the 19 stages of 12 months ago. The biggest changes were around Friday, which hosted shakedown and four stages. Crews tackled eight tests on Saturday, then concluded with four stages and a midday finish on Sunday. In truth, the event was more of a case of cramming an almost normal rally into 48 hours.

How did the format perform?

Any fears that the concept would provide less action or drama were quickly quashed. The rally was as brutal as ever, providing plenty of storylines before it delivered one of the most dramatic climaxes in WRC history as Ott Tanak pipped Sebastien Ogier to victory by 0.2s in a final-stage thriller.

It would be unfair to suggest that incredible finish was a direct result of the format, as Ogier was delayed by a puncture. But certainly, the overwhelming feeling in the service park was that the show still met the standards of a traditional rally.

Sardinia served up action and excitement aplenty into its shorter format

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

“I don’t know if this was the best rally to try it on, but the theory was still a good one,” said Toyota’s Elfyn Evans. “I think the format works and I don’t think anybody will feel short-changed, even though there was half a day less.”

On the whole, there is a lot of support from stakeholders for the concept of having a rally start on Friday afternoon and finish by Sunday lunchtime. The FIA has already given the format a…

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