World Rally Championship is entering its second half – and the battle for title is on!
Rally of Sardinia was one to remember. Belgian rally star Thierry Neuville managed to overhaul Sébastien Ogier in an epic battle in the last stage of the Rally Sardinia. The Belgian won the rally just by 0.7 seconds. This was one of the tightest finishes in the history of WRC and ranks up there with Carlos Sainz vs. Colin McRae in Portugal 1998, Sébastien Loeb vs. Marcus Grönholm in New Zealand 2007, Ogier vs. Jari-Matti Latvala in Jordan 2011 and Neuville vs. Elfyn Evans in Argentina last year. Rally Sardinia showed what WRC is at its best.
We are halfway through the championship now and Neuville has a nice lead of 27 points to Ogier, but nothing is decided yet. It is hard to imagine anything Ogier hates more than losing, and missing the win in the very last stage must hurt him. It will most likely fire him up in the next rallies and we will see a charging Ogier who has a score to settle.
The drivers go to a well-deserved summer break now and the season will continue in Finland at the end of July. Truth to be told, it is not all holiday for the drivers as they will do testing for the next event. Rally Finland is known for its fast, challenging, and flowing roads that demand precision from the drivers and also a car which has the correct set up.
Neuville and Ogier are not the only drivers who will battle for the win in Finland. Toyota team has three drivers out of which anyone can win the rally. Estonia's Ott Tänak is third in the championship and needs a win to keep his title hopes alive. Team’s Finnish drivers, Esapekka Lappi and Jari-Matti Latvala, are familiar with the fast roads of Finland and both have won the event earlier.
Ogier is not the only Ford driver who can reach the top step of the podium in Finland: Teemu Suninen, a promising young-gun from Finland can be the dark horse of the rally this year. He is able to score maximum points in his home event.
It seems that Ogier is now facing the toughest challenge of his career. He is in a situation unfamiliar to him as he needs to close a big points deficit in the championship and Neuville is one of the fastest drivers out there. However, as mentioned earlier, the Frenchman hates losing.
It is very possible that the bitter defeat in Sardinia will be a turning point of the championship, but not in the way Neuville hopes. It will probably make Ogier push even harder in the future and as there are six more rallies to go, everything is to play for in the championship. The first round of the decisive second half in Finland may well be one of the classics!