Tomorrow marks the first day of competition at RACC Rally Catalunya de España, the World Rally Championship’s annual visit to the mixed-surface roads of Spain. Kicking off in the capital of Barcelona and continuing through to Sunday, expect this event to play a crucial role in determining this year’s champions, thanks to incredibly close championship chases in both the driver and manufacturer standings.
With an even split of 38 WRC, WRC-2, and WRC-3 entries and 38 non-WRC competitors, this weekend’s entry list is overflowing with talent on both the national and international levels. Today, we look at three of the top-level crews that will be among the most interesting to follow in the event:
#1 Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia :: M-Sport Ford WRT :: Ford Fiesta WRC
If Ogier is able to pull off this championship, his sixth in a row, it’ll be his most impressive feat yet. Almost left for dead earlier in the season, a win earlier this month in Wales has put him within seven points of Thierry Neuville for the championship lead. Ogier finished second here last year while Neuville retired, and with only one non-points finish for his Belgian rival so far this year (a 16th in Turkey), the Frenchman may need a little more help to deliver M-Sport one more title before moving on to Citroen.
#3 Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula :: M-Sport Ford WRT :: Ford Fiesta WRC
Last year’s WRC-2 winner in Spain takes on this event in the premier WRC class for the first time. Suninen, currently the only driver under contract with M-Sport for 2019, had a six-race point streak going since returning to the team’s third car in Argentina. While a DNF in Wales ended that run, the Finn is showing himself to be a capable shoe at the sport’s highest level; he was within 4.2 seconds of Ogier in Finland, and within 28.4 seconds of his title-winning teammate in Germany.
#10 Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena :: Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT :: Citroen C3 WRC
This week’s WRC entry list might seem more like a throwback or reunion event, with Loeb, Petter and Henning Solberg, Volkswagen Motorsport, and Ken Block all returning to competition in some capacity. But of all the returning competitors, the one with the best shot at an actual victory is the Frenchman. Of course, he’s the only one running in a full-time, factory-backed car, even as he’s only standing in for Mads Ostberg at Citroen. But the last eight times he ran this event, from 2005-12, he won it.