Former World Rally champion Didier Auriol is expecting Sebastien Loeb to have an unchallenged run to the title this year, but doesn't believe his achievements count for as much as those in the WRC's more competitive days.
The Frenchman, who won the 1994 title in a Toyota Celica, told Italian magazine Autosprint: "No one will be able to prevent Seb from winning another championship.
"He won't have it easy like at Monte Carlo all the time. Hirvonen might beat him in a couple of rallies like Sweden and Finland, but I can't see who can seriously challenge him over the whole season - he's just that much stronger than his rivals.
"I'm still of the opinion that his 37 victories aren't on a par with the 26 wins by Carlos Sainz, who had to regularly fight against three of four other champions to win.
"Loeb's talent is beyond doubt, I drove against Gronholm and I know how hard it was to keep him behind, but it's not normal that there's only one driver able to challenge him."
One of the opportunities that Auriol sees for Hirvonen to topple Loeb is coming up this weekend, when Rally Sweden kicks off at Karlstad this evening.