Columns World Rally Championship

The perfect storm

It’s January and WRC fever is beginning to ignite after a desolate winter hibernation. The test liveries appear on the French Alps or if you’re as fearless as Toyota seem to be, on the frozen snow-covered Finnish forests.

The countdown to Rally Monte-Carlo is ticking, a rally that needs no additional excitement, it could make the perfect show out of the most mundane motorsport series.

Spectacular stages, four-season weather and the dramatic spectacle created by the headlights which illuminate the treacherous night time conditions. But alas, this is no mundane series, rally is in its very nature exciting and unpredictable.

The pre-season excitement for Monte-Carlo is an annual occurrence for rally fans. But has there been a more eagerly anticipated World Rally Championship as we have this time around?

The WRC is still on a high off the back of a three-way title fight, which was only settled a couple of months ago. After a Christmas edition of musical chairs, the battle for WRC supremacy is as open as ever.

Hyundai and Thierry Neuville had one hand on the 2018 Drivers’ Championship. They let it slip and its Team Principal Michel Nandon got the chop. Now tell me they don’t mean business this time around!

Toyota has a car capable of whitewashing its competitors. It’s speed in the latter half of last year evoked memories of a dominant Volkswagen Polo, but it’s not there yet. It’s got a mightily impressive Ott Tanak behind one of the steering wheels, although his stage win dominance was brought to abrupt endings on several occasions. The Yaris may be an aero monster and speed demon but its reliability proved to be a championship-ending gremlin.

Of the two teams remaining, neither seem to have the championship’s fastest car. One, however, has a certain Frenchman that goes by the name of Sebastien.

Sebastien Ogier.

Yes, Citroen got its man and will reap the rewards but Citroen’s gain is very much MSport’s loss.

In the two years of the latest generation of World Rally cars, Citroen has been taken to the cleaners. Together with Ogier, MSport used its resourcefulness, experience and tactical nous to win two drivers’ titles and a Manufacturers’ Championship in the same time. Will Ogier’s move be as pivotal this time around? You wouldn’t bet against him.

WRC 2019 is upon us, what drama will Rally Monte-Carlo bring? It brings goosebumps just picturing the four-wheel powerslides over the flat out black ice bends or the snow-laden hairpins.

World rallying is in a special place, the peak of technology is on an upward incline at a time when teams can barely be separated. Yes it’s expensive but it’s the top of the game, you need to be the best to win. It’s dog eat dog but that’s the drama and excitement we all crave.

Enjoy it, before the nightmare of EVs or hybrid technology warps the passion and purism of the sport we have all come to know and love. At the minute it is nothing other than the perfect storm.

Adam Hall

Cover photo by Henri Vuorinen Photography – https://hencca.galleria.fi/

Other photos from Red Bull Content Pool

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