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.

Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Life and Style
fashionThe supermodel on her career, motherhood and Cara Delevingne
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments