It was the perfect start for the new era of the FIA World Rally Championship: four different winners from four manufacturers in the first four races of the calendar. It’s a statistic that any motorsport series could struggle to beat and although it’s unlikely that another manufacturer could become the fifth consecutive winner in Argentina this weekend, another rally winner is a high possibility.
The four winners and their respected co-drivers that have helped path their way into the record books include current World Champion Sebastien Ogier of M-Sport, Toyota’s Jari-Matti Latvala, Britain’s Kris Meeke who took a detour through a spectator car park in the final stage of Rally Mexico to take a win for Citroen and most recently Thierry Neuville who secured victory in Corsica with Hyundai. All four drivers are from different nationalities and gathered at Villa Carlos Paz on Wednesday afternoon for a photoshoot to celebrate the special occasion.
Such a variety of winners from different teams is rare enough so early on in a season, something only ever seen once before in the WRC back in 1986. In a calendar that saw the championship visit Monte Carlo, Sweden, Portugal and Kenya’s Safari Rally back-to-back, four different winners and manufacturers took their victories. This included Henri Toivonen for Lancia, Juha Kankkunen with Peugeot, Joaquim Moutinho and his Renault 5 Turbo and finally Björn Waldegård drove his Toyota to the top step of the podium.
“What we have witnessed so far has been exceptional with drama seemingly awaiting around every turn. The only thing I can advise fans for the rest of the season is to expect the unexpected,” WRC Promoter Managing Director Oliver Ciesla stated ahead of the full power gravel rally this weekend.
Rally Argentina, described by many as the most challenging rally in the championship, has a tendency to throw some curveballs and has provided us with first-time winners the past two years – Kris Meeke in 2015 followed by the of Kiwi Hayden Paddon last year for Hyundai. Could this 18 stage rally, covering a total distance of 1417.98km, provide us with yet another first-time winner? Quite possibly.
Ott Tanak is a 29-year-old Estonian and is currently racing with M-Sport World Rally Team. With 70 starts under his belt, he has matured and is expected to claim his first WRC victory this season, coming close already this year with a third place finish at the season opener in Monte Carlo and second place the following rally in Sweden. Could his first win come in Argentina?
Other notable drivers that could make it five consecutive different winners this season are Hyundai’s Hayden Paddon and Dani Sordo. Although Sordo excels on asphalt and not the gravel conditions seen in Argentina, Paddon is a good shout as he took his first win here last year. The car is competitive and with their team-mate Neuville winning last time out in Corsica, team spirits must be high.
Overall, I think that although it would be fantastic for the sport if they could have five different winners in the first five rounds of the championship, with four of those coming from different manufacturers, the round will likely be dominated by the likes of Ogier, who has never won in Argentina but just missed on victory here last year, or Latvala who is another favourite.
Either way, it look to be another fantastic rally.