Loeb in a league of his own, says Wilson

Consternation and the wringing of hands tends to be the general reaction within Formula One when Michael Schumacher reiterates his determination to carry on. Rallying should be warned, therefore, that it confronts the prospect of similar domination by one man.

Sebastien Loeb, of Citroen, has yet to secure his first World Rally Championship, let alone match Schumacher's seven titles, but according to one good judge, the comparison is as unavoidable as it is ominous. Malcolm Wilson, team principal of Ford, had hoped his own senior driver, Markko Martin, of Estonia, would be taking a step closer to the championship at Rally GB, which starts in Cardiff this evening. Instead, he acknowledges that Loeb, 30 points clear with five events remaining, is virtually unstoppable - and has the talent and temperament to vault clear of all comers in the WRC for years to come.

"He's the Michael Schumacher of rallying,'' Wilson said of the former gymnast. "Simply better than the rest. He's got everything. He's extremely quick, yet rarely makes a mistake. He's also learned how to win a championship. If he can't win a rally he makes sure he gets the best possible finish.

"He looks the part out of the car as well as in it. He presents himself well, says the right things, and never rocks the boat.''

That is a trick Schumacher perfected long ago. Loeb had the chance to go for the drivers' title at Rally GB last year, the final round. However, he was told by his team to avoid risks because the manufacturers' title had to take priority. He settled for runner-up behind Subaru's Petter Solberg, while Citroen achieved their objective.

Citroen assured him that loyalty would be returned, and his car this year has enabled him to maintain a consistent course towards the title. Solberg, Martin and Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm have lacked either the reliability or surefootedness to keep pace.

"All those other drivers you would expect to be contesting the championship are very good and highly competitive, but I believe Loeb is now on another level,'' Wilson said. "In reality, he's got the title already, because he needs only modest places for the rest of the season.''

That might not be quite the spiel the organisers and publicists of Rally GB had in mind, especially when no home driver is involved in the quest for outright victory. Post Colin McRae and Richard Burns, British interest will be concentrated on the lower classes.

McRae, three times a winner, may not be featuring, but family honour will be upheld by his 60-year-old father, Jimmy, competing for the 18th time, and younger brother Alister, pursuing the production class title. Kris Meeke and Guy Wilks will endeavour to show their potential in the Junior WRC category.

Apart from running the Ford factory cars of Martin and Carlos Sainz, Wilson's M-Sport operation also provides a focus for a 17-year-old Cumbrian already distinguishing himself on the domestic scene: Wilson's son, Matthew, combines schoolwork with British Championship rallying and next year plans to fit a few more World Championship rounds between his studies.

News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower