Sebastien Loeb has got this rally won if the formbook is anything to go by. The Citroen ace hasn’t been beaten in Spain since 2005 and would relish the prospect of marking his final appearance in the World Rally Championship as a full-time driver with victory number 76.
But there will be many drivers out to stop him, not least factory Ford aces Jari-Matti Latvala and Petter Solberg, plus Ford privateer Mads Ostberg, who are all vying for third place in the final drivers’ table.
Mikko Hirvonen will take the start full of confidence following his breakthrough win for Citroen in Italy, while Thierry Neuville will be looking to underline an impressive debut season in the WRC’s top tier with a strong result for the Citroen Junior World Rally Team.
Like Hirvonen, Evgeny Novikov and Ott Tanak are on top form after they finished second and third respectively behind Hirvonen on the previous round. Tanak will pilot his familiar Ford Fiesta RS WRC for the semi-works M-Sport team, but Novikov will switch from M-Sport to drive an Autotek Motorsport Fiesta following a tie-up with tyre firm DMACK, which will also be supporting a second Autotek Fiesta for Martin Prokop.
Hans Weijs will get a dream opportunity to shine on his debut in a Citroen DS3 WRC, two years after he narrowly lost out on the Junior world title in Spain. The talented Dutchman will represent the Qatar World Rally Team.
John Powell, a regular on rallies in the Caribbean, will make his WRC debut in an M-Sport Fiesta, while Daniel Oliveira is back in action for the Brazil World Rally Team.
However, the main focus will be on Spanish hero Dani Sordo, who will pilot one of five MINI John Cooper Works WRCs on the season-closer. Sordo has never won a world championship rally before but has registered five podium finishes in the WRC in Spain alone.
Jarkko Nikara will partner Sordo in the Prodrive WRC Team for his first run in a World Rally Car. Meanwhile, Australian Chris Atkinson - fresh from clinching the FIA Asia Pacific title in China - joins Brazilian Paulo Nobre in the two-car WRC Team MINI Portugal outfit. Qatar’s Abdulaziz Alkuwari completes the World Rally Car contingent in a privateer MINI.
Volkswagen Motorsport will conclude its WRC acclimatisation in Spain ahead of unleashing the all-new Polo R WRC for 2013 with Sebastien Ogier and Andreas Mikkelsen piloting a brace of Super 2000-specification Skoda Fabias.
While the overall drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles have been settled in Sebastien Loeb and Citroen’s favour, three drivers can win the Super 2000 World Rally Championship in Spain while it’s a six-way scrap for Production Car World Rally Championship glory. Previews for the SWRC, PWRC and the WRC Academy will appear on WRC.com next week.
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