Well, the answer to last year's question was a pretty resounding "yes". For the first time in years, the World Rally Championship was truly competitive and unpredictable.
Even though in the end, the same driver ended up winning the championship for the fifth year in a row. But he certainly had to work hard for it, since there were seven different winners last year.
And best of all, thanks to Red Bull's excellent coverage, I could finally, actually watch the rallies using my AppleTV.
So now, the 2018 season starts in just three weeks. And here are the main things to watch out for:
- First and foremost, Ogier re-signed with M-Sport. There were questions whether he'd retire or not (especially given that M-Sport operates with a fraction of the budget of the other teams), but he did. And I'm glad! The sport needs someone at the top for everyone else to chase. Especially now that they know they can actually catch him.
- Perhaps equally important: Ford is back! After being gone as an official manufacturer for several years, they've rejoined with M-Sport to help back the team with more technical support, and return for a shot at the manufacturer's title. It's great to see them officially back. It's been a revolving door of manufacturers in recent years, but this helps add some stability to the sport, and helps M-Sport be on a more level playing field (although to be fair, they did win without Ford last year). It's good to see the blue oval back again. Now... if we could just get that other blue oval to return.
- Loeb is back. Sort-of. Bazillion-time champion Sebastien Loeb has re-signed with Citroën. But only for three races. Still - he could play into the championship as a spoiler if he returns to form. But it will be fun seeing how he fares in this new generation of cars, especially against former teammate Ogier.
- Another question for Citroën: can Chris Meeke get a handle on the C3 this year? When he's on - he's fast. But when he's off, he's way, way off.
- Driver-wise, things were pretty stable except that Ott Tänak left M-Sport to join the Toyota squad, and Andreas Mikkelsen (without a team since VW exited) signed on with Hyundai. M-Sport is the loser there since Tänak did so well for them in 2017, but Toyota and Hyundai should both be bolstered by those additions.
- The biggest question this year will be: has Hyundai fixed their cars? While driver error can be blamed for some of their issues last year, there were just so many suspension failures amongst all of their cars, there had to be a design flaw there. If Hyundai can get that sorted out, I think Thierry Neuville will be the one to beat this year. Although personally, I'm really hoping to see Jari-Matti Latvala return to the top of the sport this year. He has incredible speed, but had some bad luck in the Toyota in 2017.
- Thomas Jentzsch likes this