THE WRC DRIVERS CONFIRMED FOR THE 2019 SEASON
The entries to the 2019 World Rally Championship Season have officially been listed, with the likes of M-Sport, Toyota, Hyundai and Citroen revealing their line up for 2019.
We only have eight full-season drivers, with nearly half a dozen sharing the third cars of their respective teams.
Starting of with M-Sport, Team Director Malcolm Wilson had a tough situation when six-time defending WRC champion Sebastian Ogier decided to leave for Citroen, however Wilson has confirmed that M-Sport will still look for glory like in 2018.
Next season they will have two full-time cars occupied by Elfyn Evans and Teemu Sunninen. Though the former has won a rally, this is a rather inexperienced team compared to other teams, but it is a great opportunity for the two drivers. Speculation that Bryan Bouffier could return to drive a Fiesta in Monte-Carlo appears wide of the mark, but it seems increasingly likely that Swede Pontus Tidemand will join the British squad for 2019. The 2017 WRC2 World Champion has impressed many by his temperament similar to the likes of Ogier and Loeb, and at the age of 28, it seems like he is ready to make the jump into WRC.
Onto Hyundai. Team-leader Thierry Neuville will once again lead the team into the next season, hoping that after finishing second in the championship twice in 2017 and 2018, he will be able to make the jump to winning the title after missing out in Australia. He will be joined by Andreas Mikkelsen who will also be racing full-time, with Dani Sordo and Sebastien Loeb sharing the third and final car, with the former taking eight rallies and the nine-time World Champion taking six. What a team.
At Toyota, it seems like an exclusive club, with all three drivers on their schedule for the full calendar as they look to defend their manufacturers title. Ott Tänak will lead the Japanese manufacturer into 2019 after oh-so-nearly taking the title in 2019, coming up just short in the final two rounds. Jari-Matti Latvala will feel he can challenge for the title in 2019 after taking a win in Rally Australia, and in the third car we will see the return of Kris Meeke, who was axed from Citroen's programme back in June. Go one step back and two steps forward, Meeke could be a dark horse for 2019.
And Finally we have Citroen, where Sebastian Ogier has returned to for his final three years in WRC. The six-time defending world champion will be leading the French constructor into the new season alongside hotshot Finn Esapekka Lappi, who has a great chance to learn from Ogier himself. Like M-Sport, Citroen are only committed to running two cars full time, although Craig Breen will be returning for a few rallies next year after missing out in a full-season contract.
So there you have it, the teams are confirmed. We are just 32 days away from the kick-off of the 2019 World Rally Championship season in Monte-Carlo, and what a season it is promising to be. Expect an article on predictions for the 2019 season to drop in the last week of the year, and unit then here is the official entry list of 2019.
Elfyn Evans (Wales)
Teemu Sunninen (Finland)
Sebastien Ogier (France)
Esapekka Lappi (Finland)
Thierry Neuville (Belgium)
Andreas Mikkelsen (Norway)
Ott Tänak (Estonia)
Jari-Matti Latvala (Finland)
Kris Meeke (United Kingdom)
*Pontus Tidemand (Sweden) will be taking part in a select amount of rallies across the 2019 WRC season.
**Craig Breen (Ireland) will be taking part in a select amount of rallies across the 2019 WRC season.
***Dani Sordo (Spain) and Sebastian Loeb (France) will be sharing the third Hyundai car, with the Spaniard taking it for eight rallies whilst Loeb will be taking it for six rallies.
I would love to know your thoughts about the inclusions and exclusions of drivers in the comments below: