Jost Capito, head of Volkswagen Motorsport, has said he's sceptical of the motives behind Sebastien Loeb's entry into the iconic Rallye Monte Carlo in January 2015, the opening round of the 2015 World Rally Championship (WRC) season. Of course, Loeb's no ordinary retired rally driver. He's the most celebrated WRC competitor in the sport's history and the most successful FIA driver to date. So, I can understand Capito's trepidation...
Have a read at Capito's worried words HERE.
Why has Loeb decided to enter the Rally Monte-Carlo 2015? He popped the winners' Champagne bottle seven times from his ten entries to the event. That's some record.
As Mr Capito points out, the rules for 2015's WRC starting order for rallies sort of favours Loeb. This will be determined on Championship standings, and that means that Capito's boys Sebastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala, having finished a fantastic first and second in the Championship in 2014, will start rather low down the list of WRC team entries. But, a reverse order will be applied for the final day of the rally and then Ogier and Latvala will be in optimal positions for an attack on the leader board.
In terms of mind games, Capito's already scored something of an own goal for his team. Ogier's now going into the rally on the back foot. And Rally Monte Carlo takes no prisoners no matter the number on their car doors. Gingerly, Latvala and Ogier will need to negotiate the icy, snowy and muddied asphalt twists and turns. All the while, Loeb - in Mr Capito's mind - will be pulling out minutes and minutes over his rival - to coast to the rally finish while starting the first two days of the competition at the front of the field and take advantage of clean and clear roads.
And isn't that what all the fans want to see, anyway? These are the heroes of the last decade, going up against their younger rivals in faster cars after a year's absence from any WRC events, while on their favourite event. I've already heard that the ticket sales and tour operators simply cannot keep up with demand for this first 2015 event.
With nothing to lose, and a very healthy appetite for rallying, Loeb'll be out to impress his millions of fans. We remember his Monte Carlo adventures fondly...
What else is it that worries Capito about Loeb's return? Will this event suck Loeb into contesting more WRC events and giving his star drivers a great headache during the season? Are Citroën Racing looking to turn-around their fortunes to steal one final Manufacturers' Championship before bowing out, thus leaving Volkswagen Motorsport with one less reason to be in the WRC? The list can go on and on, and you can add your views in the comments.
The mind games have already begun and yet not even an entry list for any 2015 event has been officially posted yet. I can't wait to follow this event, running from 22 - 25 January, and see just how this 'retired' gent and his now-farmer co-driver can upset the WRC establishment again.