Kalle Rovanperä has a Toyota team operating at the top of its game at his disposal. But he has team-mates in Elfyn Evans (and particularly Sébastien Ogier – even if he’s only around part-time) providing stern competition from within.
Ott Tänak very clearly has M-Sport Ford fully wrapped around him, but he’s inherited a car that was designed by somebody else and therefore doesn’t quite give him the feeling he wants all the time.
Thierry Neuville is arguably in the best position of the World Rally Championship heavyweights. His team boss has made it clear that Neuville is Hyundai’s number one priority, but he’s yet to look totally at one with his i20 N Rally1 either.
All of these variables are helping create what’s shaping up to be a cracking WRC title run-in. But there’s one driver who appears to have absolutely everything they need in place to win this year.
Here are some clues as to who it is.
He’s the most recent winner in his class of the WRC.
He has 44 top-line starts to his name (and there’s another clue within this statement too).
And he’s currently plying his trade in WRC2, driving a Škoda for the first time in his career.
If you’ve not got there yet, I’m talking about Gus Greensmith. The driver who has everything he needs to succeed in 2023.
It’s probably quite a bold claim to make – particularly when you consider Greensmith’s a driver who’s attracted his fair share of online criticism over the years.
But there’s an edge about Greensmith this year that makes him a really intriguing prospect.
Back in WRC2 for the first time since 2019, it’s fair to say the health of the so-called support category is much greater than it was four years ago.
But the same can be said about Greensmith too. Rally México proved it, where the Briton harnessed all of his experience driving for M-Sport at the top of the WRC and managed a rally from the front in a manner we’ve never seen from him before.
One of the things that excited Greensmith most about this season was the ability to fight for wins again, and he certainly proved he’s up to that.
It’s evident that the step back to Rally2 has come at a perfect time in Greensmith’s career where his developing speed, married to his strong experience, has made him – for the first time ever – a real championship contender.
The same can be said for plenty of other drivers in WRC2 though, not least fellow Rally1 refugee Oliver Solberg who’s proven himself to be the out-and-out fastest driver in the category over the first part of the season with over 50% of the stage wins to his name.
And Solberg’s not exactly short of seat time either. But he’s not in the car as much as Greensmith will be this year, who must be bordering on spending more time inside a Fabia RS Rally2 than anywhere else over the next few months.
Straight after México, Greensmith jetted off to Spain for a development test with Škoda before heading to Croatia last weekend for his preparation event.
He’ll then test again before taking on Rally Croatia next weekend.
And a little birdie in the Rally México service park told me that this is a very clear pattern for the year. Greensmith has plans to drive on all of the remaining rallies (except possibly November’s Rally Japan) and before each will benefit from at least two days of testing, with national events likely thrown in where possible too.
“Safe to say I’m not struggling with seat time this year!” Greensmith quipped.
Ask any rally driver, and that’s one of the most vital things they can get. Unlike other athletes who can practice their sport any day of the week, getting behind the wheel is far more complicated. But Greensmith has it sussed, and sorted.
Solberg, for example, is understood to be contesting all of the remaining European events except Central European Rally in October. That’s still a good chunk of mileage, but a lot less than Greensmith.
And the benefit of that should tell. On stages that are similar (or in some cases the same) as what he’ll face on the WRC round, Quattro River Rally Karlovac offered Greensmith the opportunity to dial himself in – and he left the rally knowing where he needed to improve in three weeks’ time.
Had he not taken on that national rally, he’d likely have spent at least some of the first day of Rally Croatia building himself up. Whereas now he should be able to hit the ground running.
It’s the ideal scenario.
The 26-year-old has more talent than many give him credit for and his ability now is clearly far greater than it once was, but there can be no excuses if he doesn’t win in 2023.
With arguably the best car as well as the best program, the only thing preventing that from happening is Greensmith himself.