There are two ways to look at the situation – both equally valid.
The injection of World Rally Championship drivers with Rally1 experience into WRC2 this year is a great thing for the younger WRC2 drivers as it gives them the best benchmark possible to measure themselves against.
But having drivers like Oliver Solberg, Adrien Fourmaux and Gus Greensmith makes it practically impossible for younger WRC2 drivers to win rallies and fight for the title.
Is the continually rising level of the WRC’s premier support category a good or a bad thing?
M-Sport’s youngster Grégoire Munster chooses his words wisely.
“Yeah, I would say a bit of both,” he told DirtFish.
“For sure it makes winning very hard. These guys are really experienced like [Andreas] Mikkelsen and [Emil] Lindholm who is already champion and he’s driving again. For sure it just makes the competition tougher and it’s difficult to beat these guys that are so experienced.
“But on another side, if you are doing well against these guys then it means you are going in the right way and it really improves you as a driver.
“When you are in a difficult situation it’s in the adversity where you really learn so it’s something a bit like… they say ‘sisu’ [in Finland].
“It’s in difficult times you can get something out of it so sometimes it doesn’t feel fair when you do a really good stage and still you are off the pace, but it makes you stronger.”
WRC2 drivers in 2023 therefore know exactly where they stand.
If the field wasn’t stacked with as much quality it may be easier for them to fly home with some silverware, but that may not be the best thing for their career as it could create a false impression of their performance.
Up against Solberg et al, they can be under no illusions.
“Yeah, that’s exactly the case,” agreed Munster.
“Most of the drivers are all doing very well from a couple of seasons in WRC2 or they are coming back from WRC with that experience, so for sure the level is really high. But if you match that pace then it means you maybe have a chance to enter the WRC.
“I see that more as a step than an obstacle.”
Munster’s not alone in his appraisal.
Georg Linnamäe, like Munster, is embarking on his third proper season of WRC2 this year, and has also switched cars – trading a Volkswagen Polo for a Hyundai i20 N Rally2.
He describes the level in WRC2 as “incredibly strong” and enjoys the level of the competition, even if he knows it can be quite demoralizing at times.
“It’s good to be against good drivers,” Linnamäe told DirtFish. “It toughens you up mentally and ability-wise also.
“Definitely it’s going to be a rough year mentally, I think it’ll be a while until we’re up to speed, but for sure we’re working very hard to get there.”
The straight-talking 2021 Junior WRC champion Sami Pajari told DirtFish: “Everyone has the same target: to be the fastest – so it’s not going to be easy.”
“Even if we are a bit behind someone we would say it’s not so nice to drive if there is so fast guys you’re against.
“But for sure it’s making myself also faster, and I can really see where we are. And for fastest times on this rally [Sweden] it’s showing some good things.
“For the moment, I have nothing else to say than I just keep going the way we feel the best and keep learning and getting better.
“So now we are P3 [in Sweden], so there is only one way forwards. But I hope in two years we can step up to a top drive.”
Quite how youngsters can utilize this benefit and progress from WRC2, bearing in mind talent more than worthy of a Rally1 drive is dropping into the category or struggling to escape it, is the problem.
But it’s clear they’re happy they have the opportunity to test themselves against the very best.