So here we are at the half way point of the 2013 WRC season. Its been full of drama and some impressive performances from some unexpectedly good talent. However despite the all conquering, title grabbing driving god Loeb, now going into semi-retirement, we still haven’t had the brilliant unpredictable fights for victory as we would have hoped.
Although not surprisingly, with a budget bigger than some F1 teams, Volkswagen have obliterated the completion along with Seb 2.0, The new driving god, Ogier. Or as I now like to call him, ‘The Prince of Rallying’. Every rally has kinda been the same since 2004 when instead of wondering who can win. Its been more about who can catch him. However we mustn’t complain. At least not yet anyway. Because what VW have done and the dedication that they have given to the WRC is something we should all be applauding them for. The WRC is still a lonely sick poor child in the big scary wide world of motor sport these days, and it needs massive and successful manufactures to come in and spend all its money and show off their products and talent. And its very rare for any team to just turn up and be so successful in their first year of completion. VW’s target for this year was to get some scratch times, some podium places and then by the end of the year, be in a position to win a rally or two. Well…. what they planned to do in a year they nearly did within just their first WRC rally, that’s how good this team is.
January, The Monte Carlo rally. Ogier took his and Volkswagens first stage win on their first ever special rally stage – First objective complete. Then Ogier and VW finished the rally on the podium in 2nd place 1 minute 39seconds away from winner, King Loeb – 2nd objective complete. On their following Rally in Sweden, Ogier proved he was better than the Rally king and beat him to the finish line and won the rally outright. – 3rd Objective complete. Now how many teams can you think of that managed to complete a years goal in just 2 rallies.
Sebastien Ogier then went on to win in Mexico & Portugal. unfortunately the young Frenchman was beaten once again by Loeb in Argentina but only by 55 seconds. Then in Greece Volkswagen encountered their first mechanical failure which put Ogier out of the rally on the first stage. Wasn’t all bad though, as Ogiers team-mate Jari Matti latvala took the win instead. Latvala struggled to get comfortable with his Polo R at first after spending all his career in Fords, but finally got to grips and took his first win with the team. Then onto Italy where, of course, Ogier was back to winning ways.
Else where in the championship, Citroen has really been struggling. With no longer having the Rally King being able to win in anything he drives, Citroen have had to find a way to operate without the frenchman, and don’t seem to really know how to do it. And Citroen certainly don’t know how to loose, having won almost everything over the past 9 years. The returning Dani Sordo was less than impressive on the first few rallies, and Mikko Hirvonen, the once flying finn and the only driver that could get close to the greatest driver of all time, has been shot down by car problems and mistakes. This year should be Hirvonen’s best chance of taking the world title which he has missed out on twice by just a few points in the past. But the finn never seems to have that ‘X-factor’ about him. He always seems to only be able to drive up to a certain limit and struggles to drive past that and push himself to go faster. But then we must also ask ourselves… how good is that DS3 WRC? is it really as good as we all thought, or did Loeb make the car look good with his magic driving boots?
On the other side of the Service Park however, there is a car which I think is possibly the fastest car in the championship. M-sport’s Ford fiesta. Even in the hands of the unexperienced, that car always seems to deliver brilliant results and speed. What Malcolm Wilson did was questionable at first when he took on a bunch of young drivers. But remember, we need new comers to the sport. its changing all the time and we need fresh talent, we need the next generation for the future. And Mr Wilson’s team has been magic in finding just that. He has given ‘up and coming’ drivers the chance to shine on the world stage and most of them have done so. M-Sport will never win the title this year, but he has got his drivers experience and some maybe possible champions for the future. M-sport are looking long term and have made the best of the situation after Ford pulled out as title sponsor. With Neuville, Novikov, Ostberg & in Sardinia Evans, Qatar M-sport is the most exciting and interesting team in the championship. And have even put in great results. In many ways, M-sports young team have put the old experienced boys to shame. especially with Thierry Neuville sitting 3rd in the drivers standings on more points than Loeb.
Checkout the 2013 WRC mid-Season Driver Analysis CLICK HERE