2019 talking points: Ogier to Citroën
With just 17 days until Rallye Monte-Carlo (24 - 27 January), levels of WRC pre-season excitement are building at full speed. And for good reason.
The upcoming championship promises to be a thriller, with shuffled teams, driver swaps, brand-new special stages and a returning nine-time champ adding to the global show.
This week, we highlight some of the biggest developments that will play out over the next 12 months, starting with defending champion Sébastien Ogier and his fresh start at the Citroën Total World Rally Team.
The performance of the championship's most successful full-time driver, who has rejoined the French manufacturer after seven seasons away, is hugely significant.
After adding two more titles at the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team, Ogier is back at the squad where he began his WRC career in 2008.
It could be a fairy-tale return for the Frenchman. A chance to set the record straight after his last stint at Citroën ended acrimoniously, before he'd achieved all he wanted to.
But as Citroën finished last in the 2018 manufacturer standings, it could also be a tricky return, and one that brings Ogier's run of six consecutive titles to a grinding halt.
Key to his success or otherwise is Citroën's troubled C3 WRC, a car that has won just three WRC events since it was launched at the beginning of 2017.
Ogier has driven the car on gravel and asphalt and admits there is work to do to improve its performance ahead of the new season.
Whether he will succeed in turning the C3 into a consistent winner remains to be seen, but if there's one man that knows how to energise a team and get results it's Ogier.
Both Volkswagen and M-Sport Ford enjoyed huge success with an operation centred around the 44-time rally winner.
Having won four world titles with Volkswagen and two with M-Sport Ford, it's now Citroën's turn to see if Ogier's magic powers are still as potent.
Testing times for Loeb
Frenchman's i20 preparation will be limited ahead of Monte
Video: Citroën testing
Ogier and Lappi get to grips with the C3 WRC
Ogier gives C3 assessment
World champion says there is work to do ahead of 2019