Tuesday | 05 Jan 2016

New for 2016: WRC driver shuffle

The WRC countdown has begun. Rally-free December is a distant memory and in a fortnight the WRC teams will be on the pre-event recce for Rallye Monte-Carlo. Are we excited? You bet we are!

Over the next week on wrc.com we’ll tell you some of the reasons why we’re looking forward to 2016. Up first, there's been a bit of a movement behind the steering wheels...
1: Who's gone where?

Each season gives us the chance to see new drivers in new cars. And this year is no exception. Like in 2015, the most significant change concerns the line-up at M-Sport, where new boy Eric Camilli and the returning Mads Østberg take the seats vacated by Ott Tänak and Elfyn Evans. To spice things up further, each will have a new co-driver. Andreas Mikkelsen's former navigator Ola Fløene joins Østberg, following the shock departure of Jonas Andersson, while Nicolas Klinger replaces his best friend Benjamin Veillas at Camilli's side.
The big news at title-holders Volkswagen was Mikkelsen's new partnership with co-driver Anders Jaeger. Jaeger has started only nine WRC rounds alongside Junior WRC driver Ole Christian Veiby and was due to replace Fløene in 2017, but his promotion was brought forward 12 months when Fløene jumped ship to join Østberg.
The new Citroën-backed Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team has a line-up led by Kris Meeke. He'll be joined by Stéphane Lefebvre on the Monte, the Frenchman accompanied by new co-driver Gabin Moreau in place of Stéphane Prévot. On the next round in Sweden, Meeke will lead a three-car team with DS 3 World Rally Cars for Khalid Al Qassimi and Irish rising star, WRC 2 graduate Craig Breen. 
There is a sense of relative calm at Hyundai, which retains its 2015 trio of Thierry Neuville, Dani Sordo and Hayden Paddon. But with a return to allocating its two lead seats by rotation, you can expect each driver to be eager to impress. After some uncertainty late last season, we will also welcome back some familiar faces this month. Robert Kubica will make his return at the wheel of a Ford Fiesta RS, as will Lorenzo Bertelli, who will compete in 2016 with new co-driver Simone Scattolin. 
There are graduates too in WRC2, which features several of the front-runners from last year’s Junior championship: title winner Quentin Gilbert (DS 3 R5) fourth-placed Simone Tempestini (Ford Fiesta R5) and sixth-placed Pierre-Louis Loubet (Peugeot 207 S2000). Joining them in Monte will be former WRC Academy winner and M-Sport factory driver Elfyn Evans.
We'll find out how they get on when the opening 21.25km stage kicks off at 2018hrs (local) on Thursday 21 January. So set your watches and join us here for live times and coverage!

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