2018 reflections – part 3

We continue our review of a spellbinding WRC season by looking back at the return of a legend and examining an exciting new way for fans to follow every second of the action.

Loeb’s stunning return

The signs were there in Mexico and Corsica.

He surged into the lead on the former’s dusty gravel roads before mistakenly stopping to change a wheel. He then set several fastest times on the French asphalt.

But when nine-time champion Sébastien Loeb edged his first WRC victory for more than five years in a pulsating finale to his third and final guest appearance of the season in Spain, the championship was once again in awe of the master.

Tears were not far from the Frenchman’s face at the end of the final Santa Marina Power Stage. Prolonged applause from the assembled media as he arrived for the post-event press conference acknowledged the enormity of his achievement.

It was Loeb’s first time on Spain’s mixed surface roads since 2012 and after starting the final leg in third, a typically audacious tyre choice reaped rewards.

The asphalt dried quickly after overnight rain and the 44-year-old was the only front-runner to gamble on Michelin’s hard compound tyres, which provided better grip than the softer option favoured by his rivals.

Despite throwing away vital seconds with a penultimate stage spin in his Citroën C3, Loeb held on to defeat Sébastien Ogier by 2.9sec for his ninth Spanish win. Simply awesome.

WRC+ All Live revolutionised TV coverage in 2018

A TV revolution

2018 was when WRC truly went live. Not just some of it. All of it.

WRC+ All Live proved ground-breaking and transformed the way the championship was broadcast.

For the first time, every special stage from each round was streamed live and available to fans via whatever means they chose. It added up to more than 25 hours’ live coverage from each rally.

Viewers rode with the stars via stunning onboard footage and enjoyed amazing eye-in-the-sky helicopter coverage. When the stage ended, expert studio analysis and reaction from the service park enhanced what they had watched.

There were great moments on the stages and equally captivating drama off them.

Some of the best moments came as viewers shared the frustrations of first Thierry Neuville and then Sébastien Ogier as they battled to repair their stricken cars and save their title ambitions roadside in Turkey.

All Live was a genuine game-changer for fans.

Monday: Toyota’s title and Saturday in Turkey

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