Wednesday | 08 Jan 2020

2020: Six reasons to be excited (part 2)

It’s day two spotlighting our six top reasons to be excited about the WRC in 2020. The new season is just two weeks away, with Rallye Monte-Carlo starting on January 23, and here’s more of our thoughts as to why this year is going to be an absolute cracker.

1. A non-French defence
For the first time since 2005, the drivers’ championship will not be defended by a Frenchman. Estonian Ott Tänak takes the title into the new season.

Tänak’s speed was awesome last season. He bossed the Toyota Gazoo Racing team and was untroubled as he homed in on a maiden title. His new Hyundai Motorsport team-mate, Thierry Neuville, could be a different prospect this time.

Tänak is moving into the Belgian’s backyard and playing with a car Neuville knows inside-out. Having two of the championship’s big three drivers in one team will offer a fascinating narrative to the season.

This is a rivalry and storyline that looks like it’ll keep on giving. Can Neuville keep the team on his side and outpace the champ or will the Estonian’s speed transfer from Yaris to i20 in a seamless transition and trouble-free defence?

2. The young ones
And how young! Flying Finn Kalle Rovanperä is 19 at the start of his first full year as a factory WRC driver with Toyota Gazoo Racing. Son of one-time world rally winner Harri, Kalle is a hugely exciting prospect and almost certain to make history.

Or should that be more history? He’s already rewritten the record books by becoming the youngest winner of a WRC title by claiming last year’s WRC 2 Pro crown with Škoda.

He now has three years to usurp Jari-Matti Latvala as the youngest winner of a WRC round (Latvala was 22 years and 313 days) and even to chase Colin McRae’s mantle of the youngest world champion. The Scot was 27 when he conquered the world in 1995.

Kalle Rovanperä becomes a full-time works driver at just 19

Remarkably Rovanperä is not even the youngest next big thing. Meet 18-year-old Oliver Solberg.

The son of 2003 world champion Petter became the youngest winner of a European Championship rally last season and will be one of the leading lights in WRC 3 aboard a Volkswagen Polo R5.

3. More support for the supports
The WRC goes way beyond the headline-grabbing World Rally Cars – there’s a ladder of progression through the series which will provide plenty of scintillating action.

WRC 2 is one step below the main action and will be fought out between professional teams and crews aboard the world’s fastest R5 cars. Citroën, Hyundai and M-Sport are the early supporters of this class with Mads Østberg, Ole Christian Veiby and Adrien Fourmaux driving for those respective makes.

Drivers choose eight rounds from a possible 10 and must include at least one outside Europe from either Mexico or Japan.

WRC 3 is another step below WRC 2. The R5 cars are identical but the competition is made up of privateer crews. The winner will be the driver stacking up most points from their best six out of seven results.

The Junior WRC offers the best of the best rising stars the chance to shine. If you’re under-30 and ready to pedal a Ford Fiesta R2, this is the place to be. The Junior WRC can expect a packed entry for a series which includes every conceivable surface. It starts in Sweden next month.

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