Based in the Republic of San Marino albeit with all but one stage in neighbouring Italy, the event marks the halfway point of the season and a crucial stage in the title race with six points separating the top two drivers.
Rally San Marino is the first of two loose-surface rounds in succession, with Sibiu Rally Romania running two weeks later. It’s also the second IRC round in a row to take place in two different countries following the Geko Ypres Rally, which included stages in Belgium and France.
This year’s Rally San Marino is the 40th running of the event. To mark the occasion, organisers have altered the route considerably by including stages not used for a number of years. They are also planning various activities to celebrate the milestone including the commissioning of a commemorative watch and book and the hosting of a post-event party for former winners.
The competitive action consists of five repeated all-gravel stages, plus a single-use Tarmac stage through the streets of San Marino City. Day one features two runs over the 19.33-kilometre Sestino stage and two passes over the 24.15-kilometre Mercatello test with regular service halts in San Marino, plus the day-closing 6.43-kilomete San Marino street stage, which gets underway at 21:32hrs local time.
Saturday’s route includes the 6.82-kilometre Monte Benedetto stage and the 15.85-kilometre Rofelle stage, both run three times, plus the Sant’Agata Feltria test, which measures 14.45 kilometres in length and runs twice. The finish is set for 20:00hrs on Saturday in San Marino.
All drivers competing on Rally San Marino will be in contention for the prestigious Colin McRae IRC Flat Out Trophy, which is awarded to the driver whose performance best embodies the spirit of the rallying legend.
Rally San Marino is considered to be a straightforward gravel event with the stages consisting of a smooth surface, formed of soft stones, but with a hard base. Road cleaning, normally such a factor on gravel rallies is less prevalent with the surface changing minimally from one run to the next, which means consistency is rewarded.
The gravel stages, held in the picturesque countryside, are generally high speed and fairly wide in nature with some undulation. Specialist knowledge is not so crucial as it is on other IRC rounds with the stages relatively easy to master with an effective set of pacenotes.
*The constitution of San Marino was enacted in 1600 and is the oldest constitution still in effect.
*San Marino’s sporting stars are not universally known although motorbike riders Alex De Angelis and Manuel Poggiali, footballer Davide Gualtieri – whose goal against England after 8.3s in a World Cup qualifying match in 1993 is still a record – and rallying brothers Mirco and Loris Baldacci have bucked that trend.
*Despite its size San Marino has a rich motorsport history, giving its name to a Formula One grand prix, which took place 100 kilometres into neighbouring Italy at the Imola circuit from 1981 until 2006.
*A local delicacy worthy of sampling in San Marino is Torta Tre Monti, a wafer layered cake covered in chocolate.
*Piero Longhi is one of the most successful drivers in Rally San Marino history, winning from 2005-2008 in a Subaru Impreza.