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W(ogie)RC


Nathan Strum

2,643 views

And so… another year brings another season of the World Rally Championship.

 

Uh… is anyone watching this anymore?

 

Anyone?

 

It's been just one guy named Sebastien winning everything after another. First Loeb, now Ogier. Particularly impressive last year though was how dominant Ogier was in a brand new car, on a brand new team. Not just new to him, but VW was an all-new team, period. Admittedly, he had about a year of development time in the car beforehand, but that wasn't in competition. So it was an impressive feat. Boring to watch since he always won, but impressive. Too bad the previous Sebastian didn't stick around so there'd be some real competition between the two.

 

But that was last year, and this is this year.

 

And... it'll probably be a repeat of last year. With Ogier walking away with pretty-much everything.

 

(sigh)

 

Apart from him (and his teammate Jarri-Matti Latvala staying with VW), every other team changed this year. So with any luck, it should be interesting to see how everything shakes out.

 

Hey… I can hope, can't I?

 

Let's break it down:

  • Hyundai is fielding their first WRC team in years. So now we're up to four manufacturers again: Ford (M-Sport), Citroën, VW and Hyundai. A definite improvement from when it was just Ford and Citroën.
  • Mikko Hirvonen moved from Citroën back to Ford. Mainly, because he didn't win diddly-squat with Citroën, so now he's back where he had the most success (admittedly, it was always in the shadow of Loeb).
  • Dani Sordo moved from Citroën to Hyundai (after having gone from Citroën to Mini, then back to Citroën).
  • Thierry Neuville moved from Ford to Hyundai, and will be their lead driver because of his performance last year as runner-up to Ogier in the championship.
  • Juho Hanninen also moved from Ford to Hyundai. Hyundai will likely split seat time between him, Sordo and Chris Atkinson - Atkinson was one of the drivers testing Hyundai's rally car when it was under development.
  • Mads Ostberg left Ford for Citroën.
  • Kris Meeke is now with Citroën, after having gotten the shaft when the Mini team he'd been on a couple of years ago was snuffed out by BMW. So it's nice to see him get a factory ride again.
  • Ford signed former F-1 driver Robert Kubica, who won the WRC2 title last year.
  • Ford also signed Elfyn Evans, a previous WRC Academy Cup winner, and WRC2 driver last year.
  • Evgeny Novikov didn't get a seat this season, so he won't be back. Too bad… he's
    . (And
    …)

So the big questions this year are:

  • Can VW repeat its driver's and manufacturer's championship wins? (Yes)
  • Can anyone catch Ogier? (No)
  • Will Jarri-Matti Latvala finally be able to temper his speed with car control?
  • Will Mikko Hirvonen return to his previous form, perpetually in second place?
  • How will Hyundai fare?
  • Will Citroën continue after this season, if they don't win?
  • Will M-Sport continue after this season, when they don't win?
  • Will Toyota actually, officially announce their return to the WRC?
  • Will the WRC return to some semblance of profitability?

And of course…

  • Will I actually be able to watch it on TV? (The answer, by the way, is no. But there's supposed to be more streaming content from the website this year.)

Well, we'll start getting answers shortly, since Rally Monte Carlo is happening this week.

 

Meanwhile...

Subaru took the wraps off its new STi in Detroit this week:

 

subaru-wrx-sti.jpg

 

Not too shabby. Unfortunately - no hatchback (not like I'd ever have any reason to buy a street-legal rally car anyway :roll: ). Can't wait to see rally-spec versions of these tearing up the ERC.

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Wow… Hyundai is really serious about this rallying stuff.

 

And while Subaru still isn't participating in the WRC, Travis Pastrana has returned to their Rally USA team, and will be debuting the rally-spec version of the new STi later this year.

 

And of course, there probably won't be any TV coverage of that, either. :roll:

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Yeah… not much of a surprise there. Ogier won, although he had to work at it after a tire choice mistake cost him a lot of time on the opening day.

 

Hyundai's first outing was a disappointment, with Neuville crashing out on the first stage of the rally. Then Sordo's car developed an electrical problem and couldn't continue. Well, I guess this week counts as a "learning opportunity" for them.

 

Chris Meeke took third, which is a great showing. The UK radio announcers were going absolutely nuts when he made the podium.

 

Probably the surprise of the rally was privateer Bryan Bouffier, who led for quite awhile (until Ogier clawed his way back up to first), and eventually took second. Bouffier is an experienced rally driver though, having taken second in last year's ERC. Hopefully this will mean more funding for additional WRC campaigns this year.

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Well, Sweden was different - Ogier didn't win. He was on his way to win, but he got into a drifted bank, and then he got upsot. Still his climb back from 20th to 6th was impressive.

 

Jari-Matti Latvala won, so there was still a VW in the winner's circle, but at least someone other than Ogier holds the driver's championship lead for now.

 

Hyundai crashed out both cars, but was able to restart them and at least get some more road time.

 

WRC.com has some nice summaries here and here. Still no TV coverage where I live.

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(yawn) What? Oh… another rally. Another Ogier win. Portugal or someplace.

 

On the plus side, Subaru may make a hatchback WRX after all. Which is good, because I'm buying a hatchback next time I buy a car. However, I probably won't be buying a car for years, so it really doesn't affect me. And I probably wouldn't buy a WRX because the insurance would be higher. But, um… good for Subaru!

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Subaru showed off the new Global Rallycross-flavored STi at the New York Auto Show:

 

subaru-wrx-sti-grc-front.jpg

 

subaru-wrx-sti-grc-back.jpg

 

Not sure why the NBC Sports logo is in the middle of a big bird poop. (Make up your own jokes about their Olympics coverage.)

 

A Rally America Championship version will be following later this year.

 

Could this finally signal a return to the WRC?

 

Well, no. Probably not.

 

But Toyota still seems interested.

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I guess there was another rally recently. Been a bit too busy to notice. Not like I could've watched it on TV anyway.

 

Ogier came in 2nd. There go his chances for a repeat championship. (There's not an emoticon for extremely heavy sarcasm, or I would have placed it here.)

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Fox Sports West has finally started carrying WRC highlights!

 

This week was Rally Sweden.

 

From February.

 

But at least it was from February 2014.

 

I guess there have been a bunch of other rallies run this year since my last post about it. Haven't been paying much attention. Let's see...

 

Wait… Hyundai won in Germany?

 

And Latvala is only 27 points behind Ogier with two rallies left?

 

Looks like things got a bit more interesting while I was off being not bored by the same old results.

 

Can't wait to see how things turn out.

 

In May or so. :roll:

 

Assuming the WRC survives that long.

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