Colin Clark’s half-term WRC 2021 rankings

With six rounds gone and six rounds left, the voice of rally ranks the WRC drivers


Believe it or not, we are already at the halfway stage of the 2021 World Rally Championship season. Six events have been completed and six remain, starting with next week’s Rally Estonia.

We’ve therefore decided to examine the season so far and rank our World Rally drivers based on how impressive they’ve been.

Really, there was only one man for the job: Colin Clark.

Here are Clark’s rankings – and notes – from the first half of the 2021 WRC season.

12 Pierre-Louis Loubet


Team: 2C Competition
Podiums: 0
Wins: 0
Stage wins: 0
Points: 0
Championship position: N/A

High point – Securing a WRC car for the season
Low point – Not scoring a single point in five WRC starts

I feel really awful coming down on youngsters; anyone trying to make their way in the ultra competitive and ultra expensive world of rallying deserves to be supported. However, young Loubet is very well supported indeed and was handed the equivalent of rallying’s golden ticket at the start of the year. Now, it’s not as if Pierre-Louis is a complete newcomer being thrown in at the deep end – he’s been competing regularly in R5 machinery since 2016 with some degree of success. So he knows the rallies and he knows how to go fast.

What he clearly lacks though is an understanding of the opportunity he’s been presented with and how to maximize that opportunity. To learn how to drive and get the most out of these cars you have to keep them on the road and Loubet has been more often off the road than on it. Speed is something he can build but you’re never going to learn to go fast if you’re stranded in a ditch with the opposition flying past you. He’ll hopefully have taken this bit of down time to work out what’s lacking in his approach and put in place suitable measures to address that.

11 Teemu Suninen


Team: M-Sport
Podiums: 0
Wins: 0
Stage wins: 0
Points: 9
Championship position: 13th

High point – Yet to happen
Low point – Crashing on SS1 (for the second time this season) in Sardinia

A massively underwhelming season so far for the undoubtedly talented Finn. Crashing out on the opening stage in Monte was bad enough, but to compound that with an opening stage exit in Sardinia was inexcusable.

And a disappointingly average result in what should have been one of his stronger events on Arctic Rally Finland means that Suninen now has mountains to climb to convince Malcolm Wilson that he is a driver worthy of a seat in what is sure to be a massively competitive 2022 M-Sport car.

10 Craig Breen


Team: Hyundai Motorsport
Podiums: 0
Wins: 0
Stage wins: 0
Points: 24
Championship position: 10th

High point – Second quickest through the opening stage in Rovaniemi
Low point – His inability to master doughnuts around Croatia’s roundabouts

You have to feel for Breen. He’s almost cursed by his own levels of success and performance at times. It’s hard to over state just how difficult a job it is to jump into this modern WRC machinery after many months away and be competitive. Breen’s problem this year is that he’s been able to achieve that, against the odds, in previous seasons. And that’s what he did again in Finland after a gap of almost six months.

Croatia though was a different matter and he was already almost a minute off the pace after the opening day when he slipped terminally down the time sheets after picking up a puncture clipping that roundabout on SS9. Breen could do with a good run of rallies to show everyone exactly what he is capable of. Give him that and you’ll see more podiums without any doubt and maybe even that elusive first win.

9 Dani Sordo


Team: Hyundai Motorsport
Podiums: 1
Wins: 0
Stage wins: 8
Points: 31
Championship position: 8th

High point – Only podium of the season in Portugal
Low point – A mistake on SS15 in Sardinia putting paid to any chances of three wins in a row for Sordo on the Mediterranean island

Sordo is having a bit of a frustrating and disappointing season by his own very high standards. His job sharing the third points-scoring car for Hyundai is to deliver security and consistency and in order to do that you have to finish rallies.

Sordo is almost always the safest pairs of hands and on his first two outing of the season he showed just that, contributing good manufacturer points in both Monte and in Portugal. Sardinia was the surprising one though – you just don’t see Sordo making mistakes and this one was a big one. OK he was very unlucky on the Safari and with his style and consistency you’d have put him down for a good result there had the i20 WRC not let him down so early on. A so-so season so far for Dani – can’t really say much more than that!

8 Kalle Rovanperä


Team: Toyota Gazoo Racing
Podiums: 1
Wins: 0
Stage wins: 5
Points: 56
Championship position: 6th

High point – Becoming the youngest ever driver to lead the championship after Arctic Rally Finland
Low point – The ignominy of a first stage exit when opening the road on Rally Croatia

A season that started off so well and promised so much has rapidly gone downhill since Arctic Rally Finland. There is absolutely no doubting this young man’s talent or potential but this kind of run of form will test his fortitude.

Every champion-in-waiting has gone through a sticky patch in their ascent to the top and every one of them has learned valuable lessons from that adversity. The true test of Rovanperä’s potential is his ability to haul himself out of this deep rut and learn how to use these adverse experiences to his advantage.

7 Gus Greensmith


Team: M-Sport Ford
Podiums: 0
Wins: 0
Stage wins: 0
Points: 34
Championship position: 7th

High point – Best ever championship finish with a fourth place in Kenya
Low point – In his own words “the worst ever performance of my career with 99% of it down to the driver” at this year’s Monte Carlo Rally

Greensmith needed things to change quickly after a disappointing start to the season and the introduction of the enormously experienced Chris Patterson to the co-driver’s seat seems to have been the catalyst for that change.

Rallycraft was the main missing ingredient for Gus, his pace has never been doubted, and Patterson has undoubtedly helped in nurturing and developing that side of Greensmith’s driving as he’s shown good consistency in the last four events and a steady increase in pace. If he can continue to improve in the second half of the year, stage wins and perhaps podiums are looking increasingly possible.

6 Ott Tänak


Team: Hyundai Motorsport
Podiums: 2
Wins: 1
Stage wins: 24
Points: 69
Championship position: 4th

High point – Picking up his one and only win with a dominant performance on Arctic Rally Finland
Low point – Retiring from the Monte after SS10 when two punctures and only five tires meant he was forced to drive the road section back to service on a rim

Possibility the most frustrated driver at the midway point of the season. Tänak could quite easily have four wins to his name by now and be pushing Ogier at the head of the leaderboard. A combination of bad luck and technical failures though means it’s been an enormously disappointing opening six rounds for the 2019 champion.

He’s shown rally-winning speed on gravel but will be concerned about his lack of ability to get the most out of his i20 Coupe WRC on the asphalt of Croatia. With half of the remaining rounds of the season being sealed surface events Tänak will struggle to haul himself back into the title fight. On the other hand, if anyone is capable of hanging it all out and winning all the remaining rounds it’s Tänak!

5 Thierry Neuville


Team: Hyundai Motorsport
Podiums: 4
Wins: 0
Stage wins: 15
Points: 77
Championship position: 3rd

High point – Three consecutive third place finishes on the first three rounds
Low point – Certain Safari Rally Kenya win snatched away by a rear right suspension failure on SS14

Neuville will look back at the opening six rounds of the championship with mixed emotions. After being unceremoniously dumped by his co-driver just days before the Monte recce it looked as if 2021 was going to be a mighty difficult year for him. But out of adversity very often comes hope and Neuville left Croatia with three straight podiums and hope that yet again he might mount a real title challenge.

He’s looked mighty quick since then but a hard-to-forgive error in his pacenotes on SS7 in Portugal was a major blow to his title aspirations. Has shown that he has the speed to win any rally but will more or less need to win all the remaining events to have a chance of being crowned this year’s champion.

4 Elfyn Evans


Team: Toyota Gazoo Racing
Podiums: 4
Wins: 1
Stage wins: 17
Points: 99
Champion position: 2nd

High point – Convincing win in Portugal following Croatian heartbreak
Low point – Being a touch greedy with an SS3 cut in Kenya and coming off second best in a battle with a rock

Evans has very much solidified his credentials as a worthy and genuine title challenger with his performances in the first half of the 2021 season. Kenya aside – and every driver can expect to make at least one mistake through the course of the season – Evans has a lot to be confident about heading into the second half of the year.

Even when he won in Portugal, it didn’t look or feel as if Evans had quite managed to hit top gear yet and that is a very good position to be in. His safe pace is now enough to fight for podiums and even wins in any rally. Just imagine what he can achieve when everything is to his liking and he hits top gear. It will be difficult to catch Ogier in the title race, but if anyone can stop Ogier taking title number eight, it’s increasingly looking like that man could be Evans.

3 Adrien Fourmaux


Team: M-Sport Ford
Podiums: 0
Wins: 0
Stage wins: 1
Points: 30
Championship position: 9th

High point – Stage win on only his third outing in WRC machinery on Safari Rally Kenya
Low point – An embarrassing return to the Fiesta Rally2 car in Sardinia with a mistake on SS2

Fourmaux runs Katsuta very close for the accolade of most improved driver of the season. Or maybe I should say biggest surprise of the season so far. The young Frenchman has been around for a few seasons now and achieved moderate success in the WRC support series. But as we’ve seen in the past with young drivers, the move up from Rally2 to World Rally Cars can be fraught with difficulty.

Not for Fourmaux however – he’s almost made it look easy. As much as his pace has impressed me, it’s his demeanour and confidence that has stood out most. He’s an intelligent driver who looks and sounds like he belongs in the WRC. The sky is the limit for young Fourmaux and I expect to see more outings and increased competitiveness in the second half of the year.

2 Sébastien Ogier


Team: Toyota Gazoo Racing
Podiums: 5
Wins: 4
Stage wins: 30
Points: 133
Championship position: 1st

High point – Achieving the seemingly impossible and winning from first on the road in Sardinia
Low point – A very uncharacteristic trip into an Arctic snowbank that cost him 10 minutes

Some people are suggesting that the first half of the season has shown Ogier returning to a Volkswagen-like domination that we saw from him a few years ago. Well four wins from six events certainly mirrors that in terms of results, but if you look at the way he’s gone about achieving these wins then that’s a different matter.

Ogier has used every little bit of his hard-earned experience and considerable intelligence to demonstrate the finest rallycraft and win with equal use of his right foot and his head. He’s a driver who’s incredibly comfortable with where he’s at right now and is able to focus on how to win better than anyone else. A lead of 34 points in the championship makes him odds-on favorite to win title number eight this year.

1 Takamoto Katsuta


Team: Toyota Rally Challenge Program
Podiums: 1
Wins: 0
Stage wins: 3
Points: 66
Championship position: 5th

High point – Claiming his first WRC podium on Safari Rally Kenya
Low point – There hasn’t really been one

What a season the ambitious, determined and increasingly competitive Japanese charger is putting together. Without any doubt, Katsuta is the most improved driver of the year so far and it’s fair to say he’s surprised many with his consistency and speed.

When you consider the inglorious way he exited the 2020 season with massive shunts in Estonia and Sardinia followed by a first stage off in Monza, his achievements this season are that much more impressive. And he still has perhaps his two favorite high-speed events to come in Estonia and Finland, so expect more of the same in the second half of the year.

The class stars

WRC2: Esapekka Lappi

Has only started two events in WRC2 but convincingly won both. Andreas Mikkelsen was the man who declared that he’d dominate the championship this year but even though he heads the standings, the only man dominating is Lappi.

Seems to have rediscovered a bit of the youthful swagger and confidence we all enjoyed seeing in the earlier part of his career. Is that perhaps because he’s already secured a route back into rallying’s highest level with a somewhat unexpected return to Toyota? Time will tell on that one but what I am sure of is that should Lappi manage to secure the budget for further WRC2 outings this year then he will be champion.


WRC3: Yohan Rossel

What a start to the season the young Frenchman has enjoyed. Four starts, four podiums and two wins puts him in great position in this year’s championship. Winning titles is about consistency and Rossel hasn’t put a wheel out of line this season. Mind you that wily old fox Kajetan Kajetanowicz is himself enjoying a very decent start to the season and will be ready to pounce should the Frenchman falter.

Junior WRC: Tough to call

We’ve only had two rounds to enjoy the prodigious talents of our juniors so far this year but the man setting the pace is Latvia’s brightest star Mārtiņš Sesks. Rallying in the Baltics is mighty popular right now and Sesks is showing that it’s not only Estonia that we have to look to for up-and-coming rally talent.


Photo: M-Sport

A strong consistent opening two rounds is only the foundations however and Sesks will have to maintain that form in the face of what’s sure to be some ferocious competition if he’s to be crowned Latvia’s first ever world champion in rallying come the end of the season.

In detention…

Well it has to be that pesky and seemingly fragile Hyundai suspension. Team principal Andrea Adamo tells us the suspension is the same as last year but clearly something has changed. The car has undoubtedly got quicker and more competitive but that would appear to be at the expense of suspension reliability.

Something is over stressing and it’s cost Hyundai victory on the last three events of the opening half of the season. Sort the suspension woes and Hyundai puts itself in position to win on every remaining round this year and reignite its manufacturer title aspirations.

Do you agree with Colin’s top 12? Should anyone be ranked higher or lower?