New Loebs and Ogiers are out there, WRC must find them!
Sebastien Ogier is THIS close from winning the 2013 WRC title, but as we all know, THIS can vary in size dramatically in rallying. His pace is destructive, but even more destructive is the ability to make the best use of the car without pushing it over the edge. For him, it’s not about pushing for 120% on every single stage, and that’s the best but also the worst part of this season. He is not forced to push because he is able to build a solid advantage not only through speed but through others’ misfortunes and mistakes, and then control the pace and keep his opponents in check. We’ve seen such scenarios so many times in the last couple of years with Sebastien Loeb. He didn’t win all the stages and rallies, but in those he did win, he usually had a big lead. It’s impressive for a single driver and you can only feel huge respect towards such achievement, but let’s hope we’re not into yet another era of Sebastien. Sooner rather than later I hope for a driver to come and start pushing Mr. Ogier, and hard. Because we, as a sport, need a champion who earned his wins and titles through close fights!
If it turns out that it’s impossible for any driver to get close enough to Ogier to challenge his dominance, then so be it. Surely not his nor Loeb’s fault – if the World is not able to produce another driver that is as good and fast, then I guess you simply ARE the best in the world. But I don’t think that’s quite the case.
More likely, good and talented drivers are not exactly ushered into WRC – it’s a long, painful and extremely expensive process, during which many will fall behind simply because they cannot afford the backing needed to make it all the way to the top. Some countries have fantastic programmes for young drivers, such as France, while some are not even bothered, so drivers are left to their own devices. I don’t believe for a single second that either Loeb or Ogier are so extraterrestrially faster than anyone else alive on this planet – they simply had the best set of circumstances around their careers and they were able to maximize on the chances given to them. They had the speed and raw talent, but they also struck gold when talent and speed got recognized by teams and motorsport authorities.
After all, didn’t we all go “Loeb is unbeatable, he’s the best there ever was and will be”, only to encounter his young and fearless namesake Ogier. All of a sudden, there were two of them until the politics and interests stepped in, but that’s another story. Point is, drivers capable of beating even the best of the best are out there. It’s up to the sport, authorities and teams to seek them and to provide the smoothest possible path towards the higher ranks of rallying.
As it is, WRC is full of HUGE talents. Despite the immense advantage Ogier was able to build over his rivals in overall standings, season is far from over. This may be the year of Ogier and Volkswagen, but we are also seeing some very interesting character and career developments happening behind Ogier. Thierry Neuville is joint second in the championship, Jari-Matti Latvala finally stopped talking to himself and he is now able to drive, Mikko Hirvonen missed the chance in Finland but he was very much on the pace, Mads Ostberg just needs an exorcism and Evgeny Novikov needs to calm down, but the talents are here. How about Robert Kubica? And they’re not alone – more than a few younger drivers are making their way into the WRC. Slowly at the moment, and that is something FIA and WRC should try very hard to fix.
The sport should not be satisfied and content with domination of a single driver or a team, ever. It should strive hard to encourage and support young drivers in their efforts. If and when such encouragement and options are exhausted, and our dominant driver is still unchallenged, we can safely say we have another uberdriver in our domain.