The FIA World Rally Championship returns to Motors TV in 2015 with the iconic Rallye Monte Carlo once again kicking off proceedings in style on the snow-covered roads around the French Alps and Principality of Monaco. Competitors will tackle 13 events around the globe in this year’s calendar, which remains largely unchanged from 2014 save for Rally Argentina that now takes place between the Mexican and Portuguese rounds.
Changes to starting order rules
The FIA has altered several WRC regulations for 2015, including the way in which running order is decided. In 2014, a special qualifying stage decided the starting order for all loose-surface rallies. This year, new classification rules will see drivers start in championship order at all WRC rounds on the first two days and a reverse start on day three. Reigning world champion Sebastien Ogier has spoken openly against the change, which he perceives as a handicap for whoever holds the points lead in the series. With the WRC calendar featuring more gravel events than any other type, the first on the road could encounter the worst conditions while late-starters have an advantage.
What’s more, in-car split times have been banned in an attempt to prevent crews from pacing themselves against their rivals. In order to support single entry WRC2 and WRC3 teams, only the best-placed driver in a team will be eligible to score championship points. The WRC3 titles will be awarded to the team, driver and co-driver who have amassed the highest number of points from six of the first seven rallies entered. A five-round FIA RGT Cup has also been created with its calendar including two WRC events: Rallye Monte Carlo and Rallye Deutschland.
Furthermore, drivers will be penalised an additional two minutes – up from five to seven – for any missed special or super special stages, while the 10-minute penalty for skipping the last stage of a day remains applicable. Finally, Rally 2 cars will be permitted to score points in the Power Stage.
New year, (almost) the same faces
Volkswagen will once again entrust the Polo R WRC to reigning world champion Sebastien Ogier along with team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen. Last year, the dynamic trio clinched a superb 1-2-3 in the standings and powered the German team to a Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ double for the second year running.
Championship rivals Citroen have renewed their faith in Kris Meeke and Mads Ostberg who return to the fray after honing their skills last season. The French marque will also have nine-time WRC champion and Citroen golden boy Sebastien Loeb make a highly anticipated one-off appearance at Rallye Monte Carlo.
Following their return to rallying’s top-tier in 2014, Hyundai’s WRC programme expands even further this year as three works drivers gear up for the full season. Team leader Thierry Neuville looks to build on a promising inaugural campaign with the South Korean manufacturer that saw him claim his maiden WRC win at Rallye Deutschland. The Belgian ace will partner Spain’s Dani Sordo and New Zealand’s Hayden Paddon.
At M-Sport, Mikko Hirvonen’s retirement has prompted team boss Malcolm Wilson to appoint Ott Tanak as his replacement alongside Elfyn Evans.
Although Ogier’s impressive performance in 2014 helped him to win a second world championship on the trot, team-mate Latvala was hot on his heels securing four wins including a spectacular home victory at Rally Finland and success in France. Neuville was the only non-Volkswagen driver to climb the top step of the podium after claiming the honours in Germany. For more information on the FIA World Rally Championship, please visit the official WRC website.
For every European event, Motors TV will air an exclusive 24-minute programme that includes plenty of on-board action, as well as highlights from each day at 10:30pm. The following Friday you can relive the whole rally with an extended 48-minute event summary featuring exclusive and previously unseen footage.