Positon Vacant: WRC driver …. Auditions starting soon

With the world championship for drivers now decided, next week’s season-ending Rally Australia is shaping up as one big job interview.

Only Hyundai and Citroen have their 2020 driver line-ups pretty much locked in, meaning there’s all to play for throughout the rest of the WRC pack.

But that’s presuming that Sebastien Ogier stays put in the red team.

In theory, there are three Toyota seats up for grabs now that Ott Tanak has defected to the South Korean squad, Hyundai.

That means Kris Meeke and Jari-Matti Latvala are really auditioning for their own jobs.

Jari-Matti Latvala is really auditioning for his own job at Toyota

Both will be eager to keep the foot flat to the floor in order to prove their worth, but the lure of a second manufacturers’ crown will be of much greater importance to their Japanese team.

Toyota has already lost one battle to Hyundai in the past week. To lose the makes championship as well would be a real poke in the eye.

Craig Breen has been brought in to replace Andreas Mikkelsen at Hyundai, which could mean that the Irishman has a part-time drive with the team next year, or that Mikkelsen is on the move somewhere else. Or both.

Then there’s our own Hayden Paddon, making his World Rally Car return with M-Sport.

Like everyone else in the pack, Paddon will be keen to impress, but more than any of the others, he’ll be up against it given his lack of seat time at the top level in 2019.

His M-Sport team-mate, Teemu Suninen, has been largely unimpressive this season, while Elfyn Evans has shown glimpses of the form that saw him win Rally GB back in 2017.

Paddon’s best chance of a return would appear to be if he could bring considerable money to the team he drives for, but that’s seems an unlikely scenario.

M-Sport’s current young driver, Gus Greensmith, is heavily funded by his father, and if a third Fiesta was up for grabs next season then, as always, money speaks the loudest.

That’s all a few weeks away though, and for the moment, everyone is concentrating on the job at hand, and getting the best possible result at Rally Australia.

Everyone wants to win, but playing the smart game and doing what’s right for the team may well do a driver’s chances of a future contract more good than crashing while leading.

It’s a balancing act as precarious as road position on a dry, dusty gravel stage – something that will be a key to a good result in Australia.

On the long first day at Coffs Harbour, Paddon will start last of the World Rally Cars.

If much-needed rain doesn’t soak the coastal stages between now and Friday week, that could play right into the Kiwi’s hands.

Peter Whitten

Peter has been the editor of RallySport Magazine since its inception in 1989, in both printed and online form. He is a long-time competitor, event organiser and official, as well as working in the media.

http://rallysportmag.com

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