Less than two months after the curtains closed on the 2013 World Rally Championship in Llandudno, Wales, the 2014 campaign gets underway on Thursday with the legendary Monte Carlo Rally.
Sebastian Ogier lifted his maiden title last season and the Frenchman will be hungry to start off this season in the same vein of form with victory in the opening event of the year.
Ogier Favourite Again
For years Sebastian Loeb dominated the world of rallying but all that came to an end when he finally hung up his gloves in October at the French Rally to move onto pastures new, circuit racing in the World Touring Car Championship.
But his successor couldn’t be any more similar to the nine-times world champion; he’s French, he’s called Sebastian and he completely dominated the sport last season.
30-year-old Ogier was head and shoulders ahead of the rest of the field last season, winning nine of the 13 events on the calendar, clinching the world title by more than 100 points ahead of closest rival Thierry Neuville.
What made this feat even more impressive was the fact that Ogier was racing as part of the Volkswagen World Rally Team, who were competing for their first time last season.
You’d be a brave man to bet against him this season and he’s currently priced at 2/5 with Bwin in retaining his world title.
In terms of the Monte Carlo betting outrights, he is 8/15 favourite with Boylesports and frankly, unless he has any mechanical issues, I don’t think anyone can beat him. He is my BET OF THE DAY for the rally victory.
Other Monte Carlo Contenders
One man who will be looking to replicate the success of Ogier is former M-Sport Ford Fiesta driver Neuville who leads the new Hyundai World Rally Team for their first event since returning to the sport this season.
The Belgian will be joined by Spaniard Dani Sordo for Hyundai’s first rally since 2003, although Finn Juho Hanninen and Australian Chris Atkinson will also share the second seat at the team as the season continues.
Ogier’s VW team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala finished third in the final standings last season and will be hoping to give the Frenchman a closer running this campaign. He’s currently available at 11/2 with Coral to win the rally on Saturday.
Mikko Hirvonen returns to the M-Sport Ford team this season after a couple of fruitless seasons with the Citroen World Rally Team. He won this rally in 2010 and is currently available at 16/1 with Bet Victor to repeat that this year.
Also competing in a M-Sport Ford Fiesta this weekend is ex-Formula One star Robert Kubica who impressed last season by scooping the WRC-2 title, the feeder competition to the main series.
He struggled on his WRC debut in a Citroen DS3 in Wales back in November and crashed off the road twice. If you fancy an outside punt on him winning the opening race of the season then Bet Victor provide the best odds of 33/1.
Other Championship Outrights
If you fancy betting against Ogier for the 2014 WRC crown, then Latvala is the next favourite with the bookies, Coral offering 9/2 odds.
The rally begins in the French mountains on Thursday before winding down towards the principality as the event comes to a finish on Saturday evening.
The Championship will receive enhanced media coverage within the UK this season after BT Sport secured the rights to show daily highlights from each event.
Highlights of day one are on BT Sport 1 on Thursday from 11:30pm, day two on Friday at 10pm on BT Sport 2 and Saturday highlights are on BT Sport 1 at midnight.
Live coverage of the breath-taking mountainous Sospel-Breil Sur Roya stage will also be available on BT Sport 2 from 2:30pm on Saturday, with the re-run through the stage in the dark of night on BT Sport 1 from 8pm.
Don’t forget you can also claim free bets with Coral by clicking HERE.