WRC 2016 season preview

WRC 2016 season preview

WRC 2016 season preview

by January 22, 2016

The 2016 WRC season kicks off this weekend in Monte Carlo, here’s the MOTOR verdict on the teams and drivers to watch over the next 14 rounds.


2015 position – 1st

WRC 2016 Season Preview VolkswagenThe all-conquering Polo R WRC is likely to remain the car to beat in 2016. The team has supposedly escaped any major budget cuts courtesy of the Dieselgate fallout, however team boss Jost Capito has clearly had enough of winning as he is off to join McLaren’s F1 operation. Will the VW juggernaught continue to roll without its chief architect?

Sebastien Ogier

2015 position – 1st

Ogier’s 2015 season was one of the greatest efforts in motorsport history. The running order rules were essentially changed to stop him winning, yet he absolutely dominated. He’s operating on a completely different level to every other rally driver at the moment so is a virtual shoe-in for a fourth straight driver’s title.

Jari-Matti Latvala

2015 position – 2nd

At his best he’s brilliant, but those days were much too few and far between in 2015. The likeable and over-analytical Finn is promising greater maturity and newfound consistency in 2016, but we can’t help but feel he’d be better off playing to his strengths and driving every stage like his hair is on fire. Will win rallies, but the championship?

Andreas Mikkelsen

2015 position – 3rd

The monkey came off Mikkelsen’s back in 2015 when he won his first WRC rally, albeit thanks to Ogier’s last-stage crash in Spain. Improved his pace, but still needs to find a little extra to run consistently at the front. Will the change from long-time co-driver Ola Floene have an effect?


2015 position – 3rd

WRC 2016 Season Preview HyundaiNeeds to have a good year. The introduction of Hyundai’s new i20 WRC was delayed for six months to ensure it was up to scratch so anything less than Polo pace has to be viewed as failure. With M-Sport and Citroen not completing full programmes Hyundai are guaranteed at least second, but how close can it get?

Thierry Neuville

2015 position – 6th

Had a torrid second half of 2015, though still led the Hyundai team on the points table. Lost motivation when Hyundai delayed the new car, so has no excuses now. If the Neuville of 2014 is back, he’ll be Ogier’s closest challenger.

Hayden Paddon

2015 position – 9th

The sensation of 2015, can the flying Kiwi continue his meteoric rise? All the signs are there: Paddon has a three-year Hyundai contract in his pocket, tireless work ethic and a fierce desire to be the best. Still lacks the experience of his Hyundai team mates, so will have to rein in the urge to be fastest on every rally. No reason he can’t win a rally or two in 2016.

Dani Sordo

2015 position – 8th

Don’t underestimate the Spaniard. Brilliant on tarmac and capable of blinding speed on gravel when the mood takes him (Day 1 in Australia, for example), the experienced Sordo will score plenty of reliable points and could make the podium, especially on the black stuff. A win is an outside possibility.


2015 position – 4th

WRC 2016 Season Preview M Sport

Bereft of manufacturer money, M-Sport is unlikely to compete at all 14 rounds. Last year was a disappointment and Malcolm Wilson wasted no time in making sweeping changes, luring back former Ford man Mads Ostberg and promoting French newcomer Eric Camilli. Still the angriest-sounding car in the championship.

Mads Ostberg

2015 position – 4th

Best of the non-VWs in 2015 but it was a position achieved through consistency rather than outright speed. Now freed of the need to score championship points, Ostberg is promising a maximum attack approach in 2016. The Norwegian is now a very experienced campaigner and the Fiesta has shown flashes of speed, so look for him at the front in Sweden.

Eric Camilli

2015 position – N/A

The great unknown. Camilli is a relative newcomer to the world of rallying but Malcolm Wilson is adamant he’s a potential future champion. Has looked incredibly impressive in pre-Monte testing, however has virtually no knowledge of any of the rallies and the step up to WRC pace is a big one. A couple of top five finishes and no big accidents will be a successful year.

Ott Tanak

2015 position – 10th

Has landed on his feet after being demoted from the main M-Sport squad thanks to tyre manufacturer DMACK offering the mercurial Estonian a full 14-round program. The rubber isn’t a match for the Michelins of the main teams which will slow him a little, but there’s no-one more committed in the WRC.

Robert Kubica

2015 position – 12th

Except, perhaps, for former F1 star Robert Kubica. As a result of the horrific injuries he sustained in his 2011 rallying accident Kubica essentially drives one-handed, which explains his fairly frequent off-road excursions. Sadly, Kubica only currently has the funding in place to compete in Monte Carlo and is likely to return to circuit racing.

Lorenzo Bertelli

2015 position – 29th

The Prada heir mostly made headlines in 2015 for complaining about various rally organisers (not always without justification), but money talks and the F#$&matie (our censorship) team is back for every rally bar China in 2016. Will spend the year a few minutes off the ultimate pace on the fringes of the top 10.


2015 position – 2nd

WRC 2016 Season Preview Citroen

A gap year for the French team, with a part program run by PH-Sport to allow the drivers to keep their eye in while the factory outfit (including all the formerly distracted WTCC engineers) concentrate on creating another dominant Citroen for the new regulations in 2017. The last time Citroen took a sabbatical, it won the next six world titles straight.

Kris Meeke

2015 position – 6th

Finally, some career certainty for the Irishman. Newfound consistency to go with his undoubted speed in the last quarter of 2015 convinced Citroen he was the man to lead them into the new era. It’s a clever choice; Meeke isn’t just fast, he’s a qualified engineer who’s handled Citroen development work for much of the last decade. Will be spotted on the podium in 2016, too.

Stephane Lefebvre

2015 position – 19th

Citroen’s latest flying Frenchman was thrown into the deep end towards the end of 2015 and swam more than he sank. The learning curve will continue in 2016 with a limited program but as long as he doesn’t throw it off the road will probably end up in the second C3 come 2017.

Craig Breen

2015 position – N/A

An unexpected choice, but a deserved opportunity for the gutsy Irishman. Breen has won at every level, including WRC Academy, WRC2 and ERC, so WRC is the next logical step. Experience at this level is quite limited, but like Lefebvre, if he keeps his nose clean further opportunities are likely to arise in 2017.

Khalid Al-Qassimi

2015 position – 13th

The man with the money behind Citroen’s 2016 campaign. Only scheduled to appear on a handful of rallies, picking and choosing his favourites, but deserves credit for keeping the WRC entry lists looking healthy. Quite a spectacular driver, though is likely to struggle to crack the top 10, outpaced by not only the WRC field but also the front-running WRC2 cars.