In the FIA World Rally Championship, the season already promises to be a two horse race between 9 times WRC French rally driver Sebastien Loeb and his fellow country mate, former teammate and now arch rival Sebastien Ogier.
With the two currently separated by just 3 points, Ogier seems to have finally come of age with a spectacular show in Sweden.
In the first round staged in Monte Carlo (Monaco), Loeb and Elena claimed their 77th world rally victory and 7th Rally Monte-Carlo win by one minute 39.9 seconds to beat second placed Ogier of the Volkswagen Polo R WRC in tricky snowy conditions.
Ogier and Julien Ingrassia however responded by claiming their first victory for the new Volkswagen Polo R WRC when they won Rally Sweden, the second round of the FIA World Rally Championship. The duo dominated the winter rally and finished 41.8 seconds ahead of Citroën’s reigning World Champions Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena. The fight for third went down to the final stage and Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson claimed the position, just 6.1 seconds ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila.
Ogier now heads the leaderboard by three points over Loeb with Østberg moving into third position just after two rounds. In the Manufacturers’ Championship, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team continues to lead and is two points ahead of Volkswagen Motorsport.
With the third round of the FIA World Rally Championship taking the contenders to the Americas for Rally Guanajuato Mexico (7-10 March), one definitely expects a fiery contest between Loeb and Ogier. A relative newcomer to the calendar, Rally Mexico has proved a popular addition since its debut in 2004, with a compact series of well-organised, high-speed gravel stages through the Sierra de Lobos and Sierra de Guanajuato mountains and the plains around the cities of Guanajuato, Leon and Silao.
The high-altitude stages make for spectacular viewing with a mixture of mountain peaks and flat open valleys. The altitude, though, means the engines struggle to breathe in the thin air and suffer a drop in power of about 20 per cent. The road surface is dry and sandy, but rocks can get on the road, so drivers have to balance high speeds with caution. One thing remains clear; all stages will be spectacular and not so predictable for drivers and with road surfaces predominantly dry, this ought to be quite a fast rally.