Today’s the day: RACC Rally Catalunya de España, the penultimate event of the 2018 World Rally Championship, kicks off with its well-loved street stage in Barcelona. From there, drivers take on 17 more stages of mixed surfaces, totaling 331.58 kilometers of tarmac and gravel rally action.
There are plenty of storylines to follow along with on this event, from tight points battles for both the drivers and manufacturers to one-off entrants who will add some extra flavor to the proceedings. While you’re following along with all four days of competition, here are three of the key storylines to note:
Where do the championship chases go from here?
Thierry Neuville now leads Sebastien Ogier by just seven points with two races remaining, after radiator issues in Wales eliminated Ott Tanak from what would’ve been a surefire victory. But Tanak and his Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT teammates have been consistent enough to earn the Manufacturer’s Championship lead over Neuville’s Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT squad by 20, with Ogier’s M-Sport Ford WRT not too far behind them. Both lists could be turned upside down by the season finale in Australia.
Who are you going to follow more closely: Sebastien Loeb or Ken Block?
Loeb calls it “pretentious” to assume he’ll be on pace with the sport’s best drivers, while Block said flat-out that he won’t be competitive. So this comes down to what type of curiosity piques your interest more: if Loeb, the eight-time Spain winner from 2005 to 2012, can even get Citroen back on the podium at an event they won last year, or if Block’s joyride through the country in his first WRC start since 2014 will see him get to the finish—or even scrape together some points with a top-10 finish.
Will Volkswagen Motorsport’s WRC-2 return yield a victory?
On paper, combining the team that dominated the sport’s highest level with a former World Rally Champion in Petter Solberg and reliable WRC-2 front-runner in Eric Camilli seems like a sure bet for a great weekend. But fellow Volkswagen AG-owned Skoda has its own factory program, led by likely 2018 class champion Jan Kopecky, and both Toyota’s Tommi Makinen and Citroen’s factory outfit have WRC-2 links as well. The class has the deepest field in the event with 21 cars on the entry list.