With seven triumphs to his name this season it could be foolish to bet against another Sebastien Loeb victory on Wales Rally GB. And with a ninth FIA World Rally Championship looking more and more likely, Loeb is set to throw caution to the wind in his pursuit of yet more silverware in his factory Citroen DS3 WRC.
Having been outshone by Loeb on the last round in Germany where he admitted to struggling for confidence on the Tarmac stages, Mikko Hirvonen is back on his preferred gravel surface and a firm favourite to get the better of his more illustrious team-mate.
Without a win since Rally Sweden in February, despite the obvious pace of its Fiesta RS WRC, the factory Ford team will be desperate to end its barren run with victory in Wales.
Works drivers Jari-Matti Latvala and Petter Solberg have vast knowledge of the Welsh stages and will both be in the fight for first place come the finish in Cardiff next Sunday afternoon.
Mads Ostberg is set to offer the main threat from the privateer ranks. Consistent and rapid in equal measure, the Adapta Fiesta driver from Norway claimed his first WRC win in Portugal earlier this season and will be a threat, as will Thierry Neuville in a Citroen Junior World Rally Team DS3.
Nasser Al-Attiyah is back in Britain for the first time since his capture of a bronze medal in the men’s skeet shooting section of the London 2012 Olympics in the summer. He will compete in his regular Qatar World Rally Team DS3.
Australia’s Chris Atkinson continues in the lead WRC Team MINI Portugal following the squad’s decision to replace Armindo Araujo ahead of Rallye Deutschland. Paulo Nobre will be at the wheel of a second MINI John Cooper Works WRC and will be eager to gain more experience, while Atkinson is foregoing the opportunity to wrap up the Asia Pacific title on the clashing Hokkaido Rally in Japan by choosing to compete in Wales.
Matthew Wilson makes his first start in the WRC since Rallye Monte-Carlo and is one of only three British drivers to feature on the entry list. Wilson hopes a test in his native Cumbria in the build-up to the event and his intensive fitness programme will cancel out any lack of ‘match fitness’.
Unlike Wilson, Evgeny Novikov and Ott Tanak have been ever-present for M-Sport this season. Both drivers have lacked consistency on occasion, but both have shown considerable flashes of speed, making them outside bets for the podium places.
Jannie Habig completes the M-Sport line-up in a fourth Fiesta, his first try-out of a new-generation World Rally Car in competition and his first appearance on Rally GB since 1998.
Meanwhile, Martin Prokop will be back in action with a replacement Fiesta after his original was destroyed by fire in Germany last month.
Volkswagen Motorsport will continue its WRC acclimatisation with two Skoda Fabia S2000s for Kevin Abbring and Sebastien Ogier.
Visit WRC.com next week to find out who will be fighting it out for top spot in the Super 2000 World Rally Championship in Great Britain.
Next page: On this rally last year, Did you know?, Local hero