With three of 14 rounds of the 2019 World Rally Championship completed, it is shaping up for a real battle at the top of the drivers’ and manufacturers’ tables.
This weekend’s battle will be fought on the Rally Corsica. Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT are still looking for a victory this season and will field a strong team with Thierry Neuville (55 points), Dani Sordo – only having competed in Mexico – (four points) and Sebastien Loeb (18 points) back for his third appearance this year.
Sordo is a tarmac specialist and Loeb a four-time winner on the French island. Keeping the Citroen Total WRT flag flying, Sebastien Ogier (61 points) is second in the drivers’ championship after victories in two of the three events so far. He will have team-mate Esapekka Lappi (20 points) looking to improve his tally.
It will be business as usual for Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT. Drivers’ championship leader Ott Tanak (65 points) is four ahead of Ogier and chasing his first title. Jari-Matti Latvala (14) is another driver hoping for better results, while new signing for the team Kris Meeke (35 points) could upset the leader board if he can stay on the road.
M-Sport Ford WRT once more have Teemu Suninen (one point) and Elfyn Evans (28 points) in their Fiestas. This year sees a change of route. Starting at Porto-Vecchio in the southeast, the rally covers 1 194km over 14 special stages totaling 347km, before the finish in the northwest.
As usual, the all-tarmac rally traverses the island on narrow twisting roads which demand maximum concentration from both driver and co-driver. In the manufacturers’ title chase it is Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT (86 points) in the lead from Citroen Total WRT (78 points) followed closely by Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT (77 points).
This weeks shakedown will be followed by the ceremonial start in the small coastal town of Porto-Vecchio with an overnight halt before the start of the first special stage on Friday morning. It will be interesting to see who survives the tortuous roads. Corsica is unique and deserves its unofficial name of “the rally of 10 000 corners”.