With less that two weeks to go until the opening round, Rallye Monte-Carlo, (14-19 January) here are five reasons why we’re getting revved-up about the year ahead:
1: New drivers in new cars
How will Mads Ostberg do in a Citroen, or Dani Sordo in a Hyundai? And what about Robert Kubica in a Fiesta? Last year’s end of season shuffle has thrown up some fascinating new combinations for 2014, as well as opportunities for fresh talent like Kris Meeke and Elfyn Evans.
2: A new manufacturer
In December the wraps came off the new Hyundai Shell World Rally Team and now it’s almost time for this young and ambitious squad to hit the stages. We’ll find out soon how they get on, but the early signs are encouraging. Top class facilities in Germany, an experienced team in charge and a driver line-up led by Thierry Neuville is an exciting combination.
3: A new defending champion
After a remarkable title-winning season in 2013, Sebastien Ogier changes from hunter to hunted as the points return to zero and he seeks to defend his crown for the first time. There’s no shortage of drivers with the potential to challenge him - not least his own Volkswagen team-mate...
4: A new rally
After a five-year absence, Rally Poland will return to the World Rally Championship in 2014 with a new route based from Mikolajki that also includes stages in neighbouring Lithuania. In 2009 it attracted huge numbers of spectators – and that number should be beaten this year thanks to the participation of local hero Robert Kubica.
5: Atko is back!
With the entry of Hyundai comes the news that Australia's own Chris Atkinson will be back in the WRC. One of our greatest rally drivers, Atkinson will contest Rally Australia as well as other rallies yet to be announced.