Today we launch a new column spotlighting the WRC’s major talking points as seen through the eyes of WRC All Live presenter Julian Porter. He offers his thoughts on whether Sébastien Loeb can score a fairytale win at Corsica linea - Tour de Corse.
“Expecting Sébastien Loeb to win Rally Guanajuato Mexico last month was a long shot – even though he topped the leaderboard during Saturday’s second leg.
But in Corsica? I think he could.
In some ways, it was just as well he didn’t win in Mexico because people would have put his success down to the benefits of road position in the opening day.
In Corsica, if there is a start position disadvantage, and that really depends how much the promised sunshine dries out the roads soaked by Wednesday’s rain, then Loeb will have it. A win would be achieved the hard way.
He believes Citroën’s C3 is slightly more difficult to drive in asphalt specification than on gravel, but I don’t think it will take him long to get up to speed. Of course, there are plenty of drivers who can present a good case for victory such as Ogier, Neuville, Meeke, Latvala, Sordo and others, but I believe Loeb will be in the mix.
Look at his record on this island. The last four occasions he competed here, he won. He loves the place, and the fact that almost two-thirds of the stage distance is new compared to 2017 weighs in his favour.
He will have pored through onboard footage on WRC+ from the stages that remain from 12 months ago. For the new tests, everyone starts virtually on a level playing field so his lack of experience here in recent seasons is not as much of a disadvantage as people may think.
Indeed, the last time some of these new sections were driven competitively was in the early noughties, and the only current driver active then was a certain Sébastien Loeb. These roads might have been redefined in places but he may retain some knowledge and every little helps.
What Seb may have to learn is how to manage current era tyres. In Mexico he stopped immediately after puncturing, later admitting that decision was a mistake and he should have pressed on to the finish.
He’s sampled Michelin’s rubber in a 50km run over many laps of a short test road, but he’s not driven them on a proper stage of 55km, as he must do on Sunday. So he may lack knowledge of how hard he can work these tyres early in a long stage, how much they will fade if he overworks them and how he must manage them on hot and abrasive asphalt.”
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