In the second part of our early season analysis, WRC+ All Live presenter Julian Porter examines how the manufacturer teams have begun the campaign and spotlights more drivers whose fortunes grabbed his attention over the opening three rounds.
Toyota Gazoo Racing
Leading the championship and hard to find a weak link. The Japanese squad again appears to be the benchmark for others - it just has to keep its charge going in more ways than one……
What a transformation! A team that endured turmoil for the last couple of years has two wins from three rallies. It was a brave decision to spend big money on signing Sébastien Ogier, but one that has paid off handsomely so far.
New boss Andrea Adamo has already stamped his authority on the team by dropping Andreas Mikkelsen for next week’s Corsica linea - Tour de Corse, but the Korean squad needs to start winning and soon. New parts are coming that will help the i20’s inherent understeer issues. The car is undoubtedly fast but its fragile nature remains a concern.
A Mexico podium and Teemu Suninen leading Sweden’s opening leg shows the British squad has remained faithful to its pledge of continuing development of the Fiesta – despite a budget shortfall. Wins are the priority rather than accumulating points and this should provide great gung-ho fun as the season progresses!
Elfyn Evans has made a strong start. He was disappointed with himself in not scoring a podium in Sweden, but a strong drive in Mexico put that to rights. If he can maintain his consistency, he could deliver on his undoubted potential.
We’ve only seen Sébastien Loeb twice. He netted fourth on his Hyundai debut at Rallye Monte-Carlo, which earned universal praise. He wasn’t totally happy, though, and there’s no doubt his competitive streak still burns strongly.
Jari-Matti Latvala became the most experienced WRC driver in Sweden but it hasn’t been his year so far. He retains his pace, as five stage wins tell us, but there are too many things going wrong for the Finn.
What about Andreas Mikkelsen? It’s another story of what could have been. Two no-scores when in strong positions in Monte-Carlo and Mexico and fourth in Sweden haven’t been enough to preserve his full-time seat. Hyundai’s decision to drop him for Corsica realistically puts paid to a championship challenge and how he recovers will be crucial.
Leading in Sweden was special for Teemu Suninen and confirmed why Timo Joukhi and M-Sport Ford’s Malcolm Wilson invested in him. He can be forgiven for his first night error on black ice in Monte-Carlo, but in Mexico there were no excuses for his SS2 shunt when a solid drive there normally reaps rewards.
He will have learned much from the first three rallies, good and bad, and I still see big things for this young charger.
New-look Saturday in Germany
Updates will make the event more spectator-friendly
WRC+ All Live’s Julian Porter reviews the year so far
Meeke happy with early form
Briton collects 35 points from opening three rounds with Toyota