The Rally to all Rallies. What can we expect?
The World Rally Championship season in 2018 has turned out to be one of the closest ones in many years. As we reach the last round of the Championship, it’s time to think on what can happened, what needs to be done from each of the drivers to win the title, and other things to think before the Grand Finale starts tomorrow. So let’s start with some subjects and as I am watching the WRC now for over a decade, I think I might be able to show you a few things differently. Have fun reading
Until a few years ago the final round of the WRC was held in Wales which meant that road sweeping wasn’t an issue as the roads were anyway muddy and slippery. However, the final round now is not held in Wales at the UK , but at New south Wales in eastern Australia. Australia is the toughest event for the drivers who need to start first on the road and as Australia is in the southern Hemisphere, it means that currently it is summer there which means that probably the roads will be dry. If it will be dry, and some forecasts say it won’t be on Saturday on Sunday, means that we may see tactics that we had in the sport nearly 10 years ago. As all of the title fighters are in different teams, is it likely that the teams will use their 2 other cars to help their Championship contender by sending them ahead of their Championship contender so they will have a cleaner road ahead (most likely that Hyundai and Ford will do it as Ott is anyway starting behind Ogier and Neuville and will have a cleaner road). Another tactic can be that Ogier, Neuville or Tanak themselves will encore penalties trying to make each other start on a higher place on the road. However, if the forecast will be correct, all of this tactics won’t happened and we will see a much “cleaner” fight between the title contenders.
- Strange events
Well, if you remember the picture above, good, I won’t have to explain you what do I mean here and you are free to go to the next subject, if you don’t remember this picture, I”ll explain. In Motorsport, unlike in Football for example, not anything depends on you, Sebastien Loeb discovered that in Rally Jordan in 2008 when he led by 40 seconds and retired from the Rally because of an accident through no fault of his own on a road section. As in Australia you drive on the left which may not be familiar to all the drivers (it matters because Rally drivers need to drive from one Stage to another on public roads) it may cause an accident and it doesn’t have to be something to do with the road section. In 2005 at Rally Australia Petter solberg led the Rally without a single problem until a Kangaroo decided to jump to his Radiator. As a result Petter retired from the Rally. Back then the Rally was held at the west coast of Australia, but it doesn’t mean such a thing can’t happened now. So we may see a Champion who won it thanks to luck rather than skill. But that is also a part of it. and now, to the contenders and what they should do.
- The Champion- Sebastien Ogier
Firstly, before I am gonna start this, a little fact: Statistically, Sebastien Ogier shouldn’t be champion as at the same year that the WRC and the FIFA world cup ran together, the driver who won the title that year never came from the country who won the FIFA world cup that year (this is the same for F1). Now, Sebastien Ogier may be the reigning Champion in the last 5 years, but currently he is definitley not at this best, whether it’s him or the car, ever since VW left he hasn’t been able to be as fast as he has been before. This year seemed like he returned to his VW days when he won the first 3 of 4 Rallies but ever since that he went downhill fast. When he had his puncture in Germany I expected him to drive like a mad man and suddenly be 30 seconds faster than anyone else. When that didn’t happened, it made me think that he really may not be anymore as he was in previous years. Then it seemed like he returned to himself again in Wales on the last stage of the Rally But will he be like that this weekend? and what he needs to do to be Champion this year again? well, he is starting first on the road which will harm him massively so if he will be able to find a way to cope with it like choosing a better tire strategy it will help him for sure. But what he will need is to be like the old Seb Loeb when he was really under pressure. He will need to stay close to them at least and on the seconds or even the third day, drive massively on the limits and set times which none would have an idea how did he set like Seb Loeb in Wales 2009 when he had a which costed him time and then he sat two stage times the extended his lead from 5 to 25 seconds. If Ogier will be able to do this, he will surely be champion as other drivers will be completely frustrated which will make them probably do two things: Crash or settle for their position. If Ogier will be like he was or like Loeb was many years ago when he ran away from them in one stage, he will be able probably to be Champion
3, Thierry Neuville- The fighter
Over the years Neuville has learned from his mistakes and this year he has definitely improved. This year he has scored points in all the Rallies and only retired from 1 Rally in comparison to last year’s 4. However, although at one point this season it seemed like he will easily win the title, he has lost momentum ever since his dramatic win in Italy, as a result of that, he is coming to the final round of the season as the hunter instead of the hunted which may would have been better for him as he has been in this position most of the year and now he will need to get used in one shot to another thing. However, what will mostly hurt him is the way things went in those events: Lack of speed in FInland and although he finished there second also in Germany. Retirement in Turkey after he led on a gravel rally that he cleaned the road for everyone. A spin that costed him many points in wales and a puncture on the last stage just a few corners from the end in Spain means that he is coming after a run of a lot of bad luck. So what Neuville will be able to to clinch the title from the master? it’s quite similar to what Seb needs to do, he needs to surprise him, Neuville will start one place behind Seb on the road which means that he will have a slightly better grip. As it won’t be by much better, he needs to use it to the Maximum to make Ogier think that he is about to lose the title so he will risk anything trying to beat him. Neuville will also need to be able to keep up with Ogier no matter what. If Ogier will suddenly set a time 50 seconds quicker than anyone else on a 20 Kilometers stage, Neuville will need to be close to him because if he won’t, Ogier will run away from him with ease with Neuville having no idea what can he possibly do and in that case, he will almost certainly lose. So if Neuville wants to win the title, he needs to do something that none has ever saw from him.
- Ott tanak- fast, but not alone
Ott Tanak has definitley been the fastest driver recently and he would have been champion a few rounds ago if he just would have had a car slightly more reliable. As he didn’t, he is entering the final round third as the driver with the smallest chance to win. Ott may win the Rally if everything goes smoothly. But to win the title he will need help from his teammates Latvala and Lappi. If Toyota will run a 1-2-3 it will make Ott’s chances bigger not only because that Neuville and Ogier will be pushed more to the rear, but also because it can put them in a place where they are gonna try things that can ruin their races as a result of having to push to stay ahead of the other. To make his teammates go as fast as he does, Ott will need to share a few secrets which may not be something he will be particularly happy to do. If he will or had done this, it may well help him.
So that’s my preview ahead of the final round of the WRC this season which promises to be one of the best rallies of recent years. Some of us may need to wake up at 2:00 AM to watch it. But there is not doubt that it will worth it. Thank you for reading and hopefully you have enjoyed it. Bye