The 2018 WRC season is upon us, and with it come the announcements of driver line-ups and new car tweaks.
So we’ve gathered all the info you’ll need to be up to date when the time comes for the Monte Carlo Rally on January 25th.
Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team
Gazoo has announced its new Yaris WRC will feature new aerodynamics on its front (something other manufacturers have also done), as well as new cooling systems to cope with rallies in hotter climates.
Visually, however, the car looks much the same as it’s retained the same livery as it wore last year.
Last year was its first season back in the WRC, so to finish third with a driver in fourth place overall was impressive, as is the competitiveness of its Yaris.
Behind the wheel of the cars this year, will be carryover drivers from 2017 Jari-Matti Latvala and Esapekka Lappi, as well as former M-Sport driver and two-time event winner Ott Tanak.
Team principal and rallying legend Tommi Makinen says the team learnt a lot last year, and is keen to continue to build on its performance.
"We saw last year that the Toyota Yaris WRC was already capable of winning rallies," the four-time WRC champ says.
"This was a great achievement by the team, but the competition also allowed us to discover areas where we can improve.
"With more time and learning, we have been able to update the aerodynamics and improve the engine cooling.
"I'm very excited that we're going to keep learning this year, as part of our mission to make ever-better cars."
Heading into its fifth season of WRC, Hyundai Motorsport’s four drivers (Hayden Paddon, Thierry Neuville, Dani Sordo, Andreas Mikkelsen) will continue to comprise the increasingly competitive team.
Hyundai hasn’t announced specific technical changes to its 2018 car – the i20 Coupe WRC – though it has visibly different front aerodynamic parts and a slightly different rear wing.
Defending Rally Australia champ Neuville says he’s looking forward to another season.
“Taking four wins in 2017, and being competitive in many other events, gives us real motivation to go one better,” says the overall runner-up for 2017.
“As a team, we keep getting stronger with each season. I feel it’s our time to shine.”
M-Sport Ford World Rally Team
With increased backing from Ford, current WRC dominator and M-Sport looks to be the strongest team heading into the 2018 season, despite being the only (technically) private ‘manufacturer’.
Its Ford Fiesta WRC cars cop a slightly tweaked Red Bull livery, though the team loses a strong driver in Tanak.
Still, 2017 WRC champ Sébastien Ogier remains the team’s lead driver, and ‘rising star’ Elfyn Evans is set to take Tanak’s place as second driver.
“We’ve enjoyed a fantastic relationship with Ford over the years and it’s great to see that support increase as we look to defend our FIA World Rally Championship titles in 2018,” says Malcolm Wilson OBE, M-Sport managing director.
“In Sébastien and Elfyn we have another strong line up and the added technical support will allow us to progress the development of the Ford Fiesta WRC.
“The competition will be closer than ever but I’m confident that, together with the support of our partners, we can produce the same high levels of performance and reliability that delivered so much success in 2017.”
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Though mostly unsuccessful in recent years, Citroen’s string line-up of drivers means it shouldn’t be ruled out for some success in 2018.
Kris Meeke and Craig Breen remain the team’s main drivers, while Khalid Al Qassimi will compete in some 2018 rounds.
Additionally, the team invited Sebastien Loeb to return to WRC for three rounds in place of Breen in Mexico, Corsica and Catalonia.
The strongest driver in 2017 for the team was Meeke, taking 7th place overall.
“We learned a lot during the first season with the Citroën C3 WRC and we've gathered a lot of information to help us do better in 2018. Despite a few tough moments, we managed to show our potential,” Meeke says.
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