Sebastien Ogier has now reclaimed the top spot of the Drivers’ Championship – a position he has been familiar with since former team Volkswagen joined the championship in 2013. Now driving for M-Sport, the Frenchman has achieved two first-place finishes this year in Monte Carlo and Portugal. Other events such as Sweden, Mexico, France, Poland and Germany have seen Ogier achieve second or third place – enough to keep him just in the lead of Belgian rival Neuville. With three out of the last four Rally Spain outings resulting in victory for Ogier (a crash in the Power Stage in 2015 causing his only loss at the event while at VW), the Frenchman looks a strong contender for victory this time around.
Thierry Neuville will drive alongside Andreas Mikkelsen and Dani Sordo for the event, and having finished third place here in 2016, he shouldn’t be ruled out for a victory this weekend. After a tough start to the 2017 season, the Belgian picked up the pace and gained momentum, accelerating him to the top of the Driver’s Championship going into ADAC Rallye Deutschland. An unfortunate outing in Germany meant Neuville’s spot at the top of the table was lost, and 17 points were ceded to a third-place Ogier. Bookies have placed him at similar odds to Ogier for the event, so expect an intense race to the finish as the two fight to maintain the lead.
Ott Tänak added to an already impressive 2017 season in Germany, when he beat Mikkelsen to the finish by 16.4 seconds to take his second ever WRC rally win (the first being back in Sardegna, also this year). With confidence undoubtedly at an all-time high, the Estonian will be in no mood to back off in Spain. The combination of Tänak and Ogier’s continued high point-scoring throughout the season has led M-Sport to the top of the Manufacturers’ championship with 325 points, 64 ahead of Hyundai in second place. Will Ogier and Tänak be able to keep up the pressure on a reinvigorated Hyundai as they swap out Hayden Paddon for Andreas Mikkelsen in a bid to shorten the gap? Only time will tell.
Previous WRC Rally Spain Podiums:
|1st||Sebastien Ogier||Andreas Mikkelsen||Sebastien Ogier||Sebastien Ogier|
|2nd||Dani Sordo||Jari-Matti Latvala||Jari-Matti Latvala||Jari-Matti Latvala|
|3rd||Thierry Neuville||Dani Sordo||Mikko Hirvonen||Mikko Hirvonen|
As the odds have proven, all eyes are going to be on Sebastien Ogier and Thierry Neuville as the 11th round of the 2017 season gets underway. With just Wales Rally GB and Rally Australia to follow, these three events will be make or break M-Sport and Hyundai’s bids for the 2017 title. If Neuville fails to secure a podium position while Ogier succeeds, the gap between the two will become incredibly difficult to close in just two events. Shakedown gets underway this Thursday, where we will get a glimpse of the 2017-spec WRC cars on Spanish roads for the first time.
Sports.net’s Top Tip
Sebastien Ogier to take the victory over Neuville at Rally Catalunya.