It’s time to give credit where credit is due this World Rally Championship season. And that’s to Volkswagen Motorsport and Jari-Matti Latvala. Yes, you read that right. Sebastien Ogier may be headed towards his second WRC drivers’ crown but the once wild and crazy Finn is just 33 points behind his French teammate. And to VW Motorsport’s credit, so far the two have been allowed to fight it out between themselves. Much like the gloves have been allowed to be left off between Mercedes F1’s Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton in Formula 1.
Thirty-three points is not as much as it would seem given that a win is worth 25 points, along with three bonus points for the winner of a ‘Power Stage’.
With two wins compared to Ogier’s four, Latvala has so far shown that he has the pace – something known for over ten years now – as well as the maturity (a more recent development) to be a genuine championship contender much the way Mikko Hirvonen used to be to Sebastien Loeb.
Hirvonen often used to push Loeb’s charges to the WRC crown down to the last event of the season and with equal machinery one can hope that Latvala does the same to Ogier.
One of the things that could stand in the way of that happening are team orders. Highly possible given how they were employed against Ogier in the 2011 season while he was teammates with Loeb at Citroen. Most noticeably at Rally Deutschland where he was told to hold position behind the now retired nine-time champion.
It is not unreasonable to assume that Ogier would insist on the same treatment as the team’s number one driver and defending champion should Latvala digs deep and makes things too close for comfort.
Another is a challenge from some of the other marques involved in rallying’s highest level. Although realistically speaking that looks unlikely. Once dominant Citroen are lifted occasionally into the limelight when Mads Ostberg scores a podium, Ford are floundering and Hyundai are yet to find their feet in their return to WRC as a works team.
Ogier and Latvala’s efforts aside, one might expect Ostberg to steal some points of one or the other should they slack up a little. Not the ideal situation in WRC with four manufacturers involved at the moment but definitely better than seeing Ogier simply romp home.