Škoda Motorsport, Citroën Racing and M-Sport Ford have provided the front-running manufacturers, with 18-year-old Kalle Rovanperä top of the drivers’ class at the midpoint.
Given Rovanperä’s incredible rise through rallying’s ranks, his early success might not come as too much of a surprise. But even the young Finn came unstuck when he bounced his Fabia R5 off countryman Teemu Suninen’s ditched Fiesta at the Rallye Monte-Carlo opener.
He then dropped it in a snowbank in Sweden and went off on the second day in Corsica. But from Chile through Portugal and Italy, Kalle’s been back on course with a hat-trick of wins which have taken him to the top of the table in style.
Škoda’s latest car, the Fabia R5 evo, was launched in Portugal and helped keep his title tilt on track.
Mads Østberg’s Citroën C3 R5 is next up with the Norwegian taking category wins on his debut in the car at Rally Sweden and then at one of his favourite events, Xion Rally Argentina. Three podiums in the last three rounds have secured second for Mads.
Briton Gus Greensmith made the best start with an exceptional category victory in Monte-Carlo. The M-Sport Ford driver didn’t put a wheel out of place in the French Alps, ending the season opener in a superb seventh overall.
Third in Sweden on only his second ever snow rally retained the class lead for Greensmith, who has since slipped to third in the standings.
Greensmith, like Østberg, has a score in hand (Rovanperä has started six rallies compared with five for his rivals) and a new car coming with M-Sport’s new Fiesta R5 ready in time for Neste Rally Finland.
Team-mate Lukasz Pieniazek led after back-to-back wins in Mexico and Corsica aboard his Fiesta and sits 11 points down on the Englishman.
Defending WRC 2 champion Jan Kopecky drove Vodafone Rally de Portugal and Rally Italia Sardegna with the factory Škoda team and was immediately on the pace, bagging a pair of second places on his return to world rallying.
Photo: Jaanus Ree / Red Bull Content Pool