Published on June 1st, 2014 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez0
Volkswagen’s 2014 Rally Dominance, Can They Be Beaten?
There is no stopping Volkswagen in WRC as they storm into the 2014 World Rally Championship and easily brush aside the competition race after race just like they did last year. It has been an emphatic, crushing display of dominance and it is hard to see anybody beating the German marque in 2014.
With rally legend Sebastien Loeb, the greatest rally driver of all time, gone to race in the World Touring Car Championship, Sebastien Ogier stands supreme with his VW Polo WRC. The 2013 Champion has started the year in fine form, taking three wins from the first five rallies and finishing second in Argentina. With the superior firepower of the Polo R WRC underneath him, Ogier has the bit between his teeth and is charging towards his second consecutive Drivers championship.
Realistically, only his team-mate, Jari-Matti Latvala, can stop the Frenchman. Latvala is seen as Ogier’s understudy, but after a tooth-and-nail fight he emerged supreme in Argentina and is beginning to show signs that he could be a genuine contender. The Finn has his off days and needs to iron out the inconsistencies if he hopes to wear the crown, but on his day he is borderline unbeatable. 24-year-old Andreas Mikkelsen heads up VW’s junior team and he already looks like a future champion. The Norwegian isn’t expected to take victories this year, but he’s racking up the third-place finishes and if the major players run into trouble he looks the most likely to succeed. VW might be sitting pretty, but things couldn’t be more different at Citroen.
After years of lifting the crown with Loeb, Citroen is a team in transition and an outfit in desperate need of a leader. Kris Meeke was seen as the team leader due to his experience and the fact he was knocking on the door of the WRC for years before a failed campaign with MINI signalled his arrival on the world stage.
So far, though, he has been upstaged by young Norwegian upstart Mads Ostberg. Just 26 years old, Ostberg has been in the WRC since 2006 and has shown flashes of brilliance in past seasons – including leading the 2011 Swedish rally in the Fiesta RS. Ostberg knows this is his chance to make the Citroen team his own and taken them back to glory, so even if he cannot match the ultimate pace of the VWs he will be looking to stamp his authority on his team-mate every chance he gets. Meeke has a fight on his hands and a pair on retirements early on put the Briton on the back foot. Forget the Drivers championship, Meeke is fighting for his reputation and his position in the team.
The potential wildcard in the WRC pack is Pole Robert Kubica. His F1 career was cut short by a crash on a rally in Corsica that he competed in for fun, now it’s a full-time career for the mercurial driver who has impressed the field with his raw speed. He has also crashed the RK M-Sport Ford, a lot. Kubica has to go back to the drawing board and learn to keep the Fiesta RS on the road. If he does, he should emerge as a WRC star before the end of the year. Until then, Ford’s hopes rest firmly on the shoulders of Mikko Hirvonen.
The 33-year-old was, perhaps, unfortunate to go against Sebastien Loeb in his prime. Those in the know rate him highly and the Finn was one of the few to push Loeb to the limit. Now, back with his old Ford team after a stint with Citroen, Hirvonen has rediscovered his old pace. The fact that the Fiesta RS is no match for the Polo R is a massive obstacle, especially for a driver that has struggled with motivation in the face of adversity in the past, but Hirvonen could be a fly in the ointment for VW if he gets into the groove this season.
Then there is the Hyundai Rally team with their first outing of 2014 being rather dismal. They however have a great number of talented drivers, including Spaniard Dani Sordo, Belgian Thierry Neuville, Australian Chris Atkinson, New Zealander Hayden Paddon and Finn Juho Hanninen, together they bring high hopes for this Korean manufacturer’s campaign with the compact i20.
After Argentina, we look towards VW dominance race after race.