31 Dec 07
There are new cars, more cars, more television, a new rally, and, of course, there's the return of Gigi Galli. Not seen since donning a Portugal football shirt and waving to tens of thousands of adoring fans in the Algarve Stadium - from the roof of his car - Galli will contest all 15 rounds this year for the Stobart VK M-Sport team.
And if we think we're excited about the return of Livigno's favourite son, you can just imagine the state of anticipation the man himself will be in. The Gigi show returns in just three weeks. New cars are coming from both Suzuki and Subaru this season.
Suzuki has already shown its hand, with the SX4 WRC competing on the Tour de Corse and Wales Rally GB last season. Since then, the engineers in Japan and Paris have been working hard on tweaking the car in preparation for this, its first full season in the sport.
Subaru, on the other hand, has a vast experience of the sport - the kind which comes with three manufacturers' and a similar number of drivers' championship victories at the highest level. In 2008, the British-based team will be aiming to relive those former glories with its all-new Impreza WRC 2008 - a car which David Richards describes as a bigger change than the switch from the Legacy to Impreza, which Subaru instigated in 1993.
Ford and Citroen are another couple of teams well aware of what it takes to win the WRC - and this season will continue their battle, the one which has defined the middle of this decade in the championship. Quadruple world champion Sebastien Loeb will take on a Finn in a Ford once again, but this time it will be Mikko Hirvonen rather than Marcus Gronholm who faces the brunt of the Frenchman's speed and agility across what will be 15 fascinating rounds.
For those concerned by the loss of Gronholm, don't be. Sure, he had monster pace and experience, but Hirvonen's not far from the finished Finn. He showed in Ouninpohja - on Rally Finland - last year how close he was to Gronholm in the fastest of the fast stage. And both were ahead of Loeb.
Certainly, Loeb has the advantage and will start the year as favourite for what could be a record-breaking fifth title, but Hirvonen, his Ford team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala, Dani Sordo (Citroen), Galli (Stobart Ford) and both Subaru men Solberg and Atkinson will be in the thick of the fight.
And don't worry, if you can't make it to all four corners of the earth to follow all 15 rounds of the championship in person, another reason to be cheerful as last year turns to this is the much-improved all-round media coverage for 2008. The sport's own website wrc.com has undergone a substantial makeover (as you've hopefully noticed on your way into this feature...) and should now be your first port of call for news, features and all of the most exciting video action from the World Rally Championship. Keep an eye on wrc.com - it's already setting new standards, but the bar's only going to get higher.