The 2017 World Rally Championship is proving to be the most exciting and fiercely-fought in years and this autumn’s Dayinsure Wales Rally GB (26-29 October) will now be pivotal in the electrifying race to determine the winner of the coveted world championship crown.
It could even be the title decider.
With just three rounds remaining on the WRC calendar – Spain, GB and Australia – Sébastien Ogier holds a slender 17-point advantage over arch-rival Thierry Neuville with 90 points still to be won.
The duelling duo were actually tied at the top of the points table before last weekend’s Rallye Germany where Ogier re-established his advantage by claiming third place in his M-Sport prepared Ford Fiesta WRC after Neuville was forced to retire his Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC with suspension damage.
However, even if the Belgian fails to score again in Spain and the Frenchman takes maximum points, the title race cannot be settled until the season’s penultimate round in Wales.
While Ogier and Neuville have been locked in what has appeared to be a two-way title tussle, neither is discounting the chances of Ogier’s fast-finishing team-mate Ott Tänak.
With two wins from his last four starts – including victory most recently in Germany – the Estonian hot-shoe is closing the gap on the pair of pacesetters. On current form, Tänak will be right in contention with another strong result in Spain.
Whatever the outcome in Spain, this year’s Dayinsure Wales Rally GB will be the most important and thrilling for many years.
Such has been Ogier’s dominance in recent seasons that for the past four years the four-time champion has had the title sewn up well before the WRC teams arrived here in the UK.
However, following the surprise departure of his all-conquering VW outfit which caused an avalanche of last-minute driver changes, plus the introduction of an exciting new generation of more powerful WRC cars, the level of competition has increased dramatically.
Indeed, this will be the first time since 2011 – when Sébastien Loeb and Mikko Hirvonen last locked horns – that the title fight could be decided on these shores, giving fans the kind of thrilling finale served up by the likes of Colin McRae, Richard Burns, Tommi Makinen and Carlos Sainz at the start of the century.
“Recently we’ve marvelled at a master-class from an already crowned world champion but, this year, Sébastien really does have a big fight on his hands,” enthused Ben Taylor, Managing Director of Dayinsure Wales Rally GB.
“This will add an extra dimension to the levels of excitement which have already been raised by the advent of these awesome new rally cars. British fans really are in for an unmissable treat come October.”
**All those wanting to catch the world class action – and, perhaps, to witness the 2017 WRC champion being crowned – can take advantage of considerable discounts being offered to those buying their Dayinsure Wales Rally GB tickets in advance. For those purchasing now, adult prices start at just £10 for the opening Visit Conwy Tir Prince test on Thursday evening, £23 for Saturday’s family-friendly RallyFest at Cholmondeley Castle, £28 for a Day Pass or £99 for the full four-day premium event pass (World Rally Pass). Accompanied children aged 15 and under are admitted free.
2017 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
(after 10 of 13 rounds)
1. Sébastien Ogier (Ford Fiesta WRC) 177 points
2. Thierry Neuville (Hyundai i20 WRC) 160 points
3. Ott Tänak (Ford Fiesta WRC) 144 points
4. Jari-Matti Latvala (Toyota Yaris WRC) 123 points
5. Dani Sordo (Hyundai i20 WRC) 89 points
6. Elfyn Evans (Ford Fiesta WRC) 87 points
7. Craig Breen (Citroën C3 WRC) 64 points
8. Juho Hänninen (Toyota Yaris WRC) 58 points
9. Hayden Paddon (Hyundai i20 WRC) 55 points
10. Esapekka Lappi (Toyota Yaris WRC) 49 points