Preview to the 2015 FIA World Rally ChampionshipWales Rally GB provides fitting finale to globetrotting series Elfyn Evans and Kris Meeke target podiums and wins in 2015
The 2015 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) blasts off later this week in traditional style high up in the Alps with the 83rd running of the world-famous Monte Carlo Rally. The 13-round calendar then sees the intrepid competitors travel from the snow packed roads of Sweden to the dusty tracks of Argentina, Australia and Mexico before the WRC reaches its thrilling conclusion right here in the fearsome Welsh forests.
Wales Rally GB (12-15 November) not only provides a fitting finale to the global series that challenges drivers and cars to the maximum – and sometimes beyond – but also enables UK rally fans to cheer on local heroes Elfyn Evans and Kris Meeke.
Both British drivers graduated to frontline WRC teams in 2014 and both produced some highly impressive performances in what was their first full campaign in the sport’s exalted premier league. Having posted four podiums and finished seventh overall last year, Meeke will be targeting his first win while, with slightly less experience under his belt, Evans is setting his sights on his first top three finish.
“In 2014, I was experiencing the vast majority of the rallies on the calendar for the first time,” admitted Meeke. “I learned a lot and I realised just how important it is to rack up the miles. Generally speaking, all drivers make progress in their second full season and I hope I’m no exception to the rule. My goal is to fight for one of the leading places.”
“I'm really looking forward to this year,” said Evans whose best results to date are last year’s fourth places in Mexico and Germany. “We've had a great first season and gained so much knowledge and experience of the events. There's going to be a lot of hard work – analysing all of the data that we've collected from all of the rallies – but I'm confident that we can continue to progress and improve our speed and performance on each event.”
While some of the liveries have changed since last season, there’s a familiar look to this year’s WRC line-up. Sébastien Ogier once again spearheads the title-winning Volkswagen Motorsport three-pronged attack alongside last year’s runner-up Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen. The Frenchman has his sights set on a third consecutive drivers’ crown and has a new-look, second-generation Polo R WRC to fuel his aspirations.
After his encouraging results in 2014, Meeke now leads the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team with support coming from the retained Mads Østberg. They have uprated DS 3 WRCs at their disposal.
Following Mikko Hirvonen’s retirement, Evans has a new Estonian team-mate alongside him at the M-Sport World Rally Team – Ott Tänaknow at the wheel of the second of the Fiestas. Former GP winner Robert Kubica is also among those in Fords.
Having entered the WRC 12 months ago and underlined its competitiveness with victory in Germany, Hyundai Motorsport will be a growing force in 2015. It, too, has opted for stability, sticking with a largely familiar driver line-up topped by rally-winning Thierry Neuville with the seasoned Dani Sordo and Kiwi ace Hayden Paddon providing support along with new signing Kevin Abbring who is co-driven by MSA Team UK graduate Seb Marshall.
While Ogier will start as favourite for further title glory come Wales Rally GB in November, he faces increasingly tough competition – not least from Evans and Meeke – in a sport which has few margins for error.
“The start of every new season always brings fresh hopes and excitement but this year is shaping up to be very special for British rallying,” said Ben Taylor, Managing Director of Wales Rally GB. “There’s no substitute for experience in this sport and, now with a full campaign under their belts, we can expect both Elfyn and Kris to be even closer to the front. We haven’t had a British WRC winner since Colin McRae triumphed on the Safari Rally back in 2002 – that’s a long drought that could be over by the time the teams reach Wales in November.”
This year’s Wales Rally GB will build on the successes of the past two events since a move to a new base in the north of the country. While most of the spectacular action once again will take place on the fast, flowing Welsh forest tracks, rated by many to be the best rally stages in the world, refinements and changes are made to the route every year.
Full details of the 2015 Wales Rally GB route will be published later in the year with ticket details announced at the same time.