The 2013 World Rally Championship kicks off with the Rally Monte-Carlo. This year’s calendar features just a few changes with Rally Italia run earlier in the year in June. Australia replaces New Zealand and Rally Wales GB returns to its traditional spot as the closer in the 13 round season
There are few changes to the sporting regulations for 2013. However, the FIA wants to remodel the Power Stage, which was put in place to spice up television coverage. Now the bonus points test will be more representative of the spirit of rallying and will be at least 15kms in length. No longer will it be just a sprint stage and Rally Portugal organisers have plans for their Power Stage to be more than 50kms.
The biggest changes are to be found among the constructors and drivers. Citroën, which will now be partnered with Abu Dhabi for the next three years and Volkswagen will fight for the 2013 manufacturer’s title, while Ford and Mini have brought an end to their respective factory involvements in the championship. On the driver front, Sébastien Loeb has decided to call it a day on his full-time WRC participations and will run a limited schedule of four rounds (Monte-Carlo, Sweden, Argentina and France). Mikko Hirvonen will now lea the French firm’s championship campaign. The Finn will be seconded by Spain’s Dani Sordo, who returns to Citroën with a near full programme.
Ogier, Latvala and Mikkelsen with Volkswagen
The defending world championship squad will face its stiffest competition from newcomer Volkswagen. The German squad spent the 2012 season developing its new Polo R WRC and now confides its entry to the capable hands of Sebastien Ogier, and ex Ford factory driver, Jari-Matti Latvala. A third Polo has been assigned to promising Andreas Mikkelsen. Volkswagen’s goal this year is score podium results, before aiming for wins in 2014 and the outright title in 2015. The Monte-Carlo will also be a test for VW, while at the same time it will be the first and much anticipated confrontation with Citroën, and a new chance for Ogier to see where he stacks up against Loeb in the WRC.
Ostberg, Novikov and Neuville with M-Sport
M-Sport, which is now a privateer team, will have backing from Qatar thanks to national sporting hero Nasser Al Attiyah. The Qatar native will run a seven rally programme in a Fiesta. The Malcolm Wilson led squad will run the entre season with Mads Ostberg, Evgeny Novikov and Thierry Neuville. The Belgian driver, decided to leave Citroën after he was offered a limited programme for 2013. Petter Solberg had offered to drive for free, but that wasn’t enough to convince Wilson, who was looking for pay drivers to fund this year’s programme, to retain the 2003 world champion
The 2012 WRC season will be remembered for Loeb’s ninth world driver’s title, which he won with a dominating 57 point margin of victory over team-mate Hirvonen. Latvala completed the championship podium. He dominated Sweden, taking the win on the only snow round of the year, but then he suffered with non-point scoring runs in Mexico and Portugal. He then had to miss Argentina following a ski accident. Latvala returned to form on Wales Rally GB with the win and improved his asphalt form with three podium finishes. Ostberg was next in points thanks to consistent top five results and was gifted the win in Portugal following the disqualification of Hirvonen.
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