Here’s what we know about this year’s World Rally Championship: Volkswagen’s Sebastien Ogier is probably going to defend his title by a comfortable margin. Here’s what we don’t know: just about everything else.
The WRC, which kicks off in Monte Carlo early on Thursday January 16, has undergone the biggest set of off-season changes for at least a decade. There’s a new manufacturer, and two of the three established teams have all-new driver line-ups featuring a number of fresh new talents. It’s created a lot of questions about the season ahead – except at one team.
Because after a winter of change, one team has been an oasis of calm. That would be Volkswagen, the team that won it all last year. It retains reigning champ Ogier, rapid team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala and rising star Andreas Mikkelsen. It has the best all-round driver in Ogier, arguably the best car in the Polo R WRC, and some of the best funding.
That’s why Ogier is going to be the favourite to win every time he gets to the start of an event this year. He was quick enough last year, and giving him a stable platform to build on while everything else changes around him is only going to help him. But that’s where the certainty ends. Everything else is a question mark. It starts with Latvala: can the fast Finn step up and provide a real challenge to his team-mate?