The WRC is beginning to enjoy a golden era that rivals any period in its near 50-year history according to some of the sport’s heaviest hitters. Reigning champion manufacturer, Malcolm Wilson, of M-Sport said: “This season is something special. It’s been a long time, if ever, that we’ve had the sport so competitive. It’s fantastic; for me, the best yet.”
Citroen star Kris Meeke speaks of being involved when the WRC is faster and more competitive than ever. After only three rounds of the 2018 series 13 drivers have scored quickest times and six have led an event. And on the Tour de Corse last weekend no driver had a significant advantage.
Meeke, who nearly won in 2017, said it was impossible to make predictions: “Basically, you’ve got half a dozen drivers in there with a very real shot at winning. I don’t think there’s anything like a safe bet.”
Wilson said he wouldn’t be having a punt on who might have won, saying: “Apart from our drivers there’s Kris, Thierry, Loeb, so many others. This is really becoming a golden era for the sport. I think it’s absolutely fantastic. You don’t know who’s going to win from one week to the next.”
Less than a decade ago only Ford and Citroen competed as manufacturers and there was only a handful of drivers capable of winning. Even fewer could maintain a long-term challenge to Loeb, who won nine titles. And on this subject the Little Master said: “The intensity in now very high. Before, it was Marcus Grönholm and Petter Solberg sometimes who were fighting, but now there are a lot of drivers. The competition is high.”
Team-mate Meeke added: “Definitely the championship is as strong as it’s ever been. Every one of the four teams has winning drivers. In Mexico, there were four drivers on the final day with a shot at winning. When Colin McRae, Richard Burns, Didier Auriol and Tommi Makinen and others were there, that was a golden era.
“But then we were left with just Ford and Citroën. At that time it was Loeb, Loeb, Loeb winning. For me, this really is becoming a very special time in the championship. If you achieve something in this era, you’ve worked hard.”
After the 2001 peak of eight drivers winning rallies, from 2005 to 2015 there were never more than four each year. Then, in 2016 that became six and last year, seven.
Source: Motorsport Week