Hyundai’s four tops:
The Hyundai i20 WRC was arguably the quickest car last year, but incidents and issues hampered the manufacturer’s title challenge. It’s possible that, having three strong drivers (Neuville, Hayden Paddon and Dani Sordo) alternating between its two points-scoring cars didn’t help. So, near the end of 2017, Hyundai’s solution was to add a fourth: VW cast-off Andreas Mikkelsen. All four are capable of winning rallies, a strength in depth that could both help and hinder the Korean team, which is now entering its fifth season in the WRC.
Elfyn’s second chance:
After two seasons in the works M-Sport team, Elfyn Evans was sidelined for 2016, having to make do with winning the British title. The Dolgellau driver returned to the WRC in a third M-Sport Fiesta running on DMack tyres (as opposed to the more common Michelins) last year, claiming an emphatic victory at his home event, Wales Rally GB. With experience and the confidence of having broken his WRC duck, Evans can surely thrive this year.
The season-opening Monte Carlo Rally, which starts tomorrow (Thursday), is the most famous event on the calendar, and its organisers like to mix things up a bit. That’s what they’ve done this year, withhalf the special stage routes being new. That could make a traditionally chaotic event – thanks to road conditions that can switch from dry to wet to ice-clad within the space of a few corners – even wilder.
Meeke’s career lifeline:
Northern Ireland’s Kris Meeke led Citroën’s charge last year, but a series of crashes, and struggles to tame the C3 WRC, put his future in doubt. His raw pace has never been questioned, though, and two wins in 2017 earned him another chance. He’s likely to be put on a short leash by Citroën’s top brass, although Sébastien Loeb’s return to the team will be a great benchmark and offer insight into whether Meeke’s 2017 struggles were to do with his driving or his car.
The Super Seb showdown:
Ogier might have won five titles, but he’s still only the second-most- successful rallying Sébastien – and the man he trails is coming back this year. Nine-time champion Loeb will return to the championship for the first time since a one-off outing in 2013, tackling three events – Mexico, France and Spain – in a works Citroën C3 WRC. The 43-year-old might be rusty, but expect him to be challenging for wins.
Let’s talk Turkey: