Driver Profile: Sebastien Ogier
We take a look at why he is arguably one of the greatest drivers to ever compete in rallying.
Sebastien Ogier shares a first name with another well known WRC driver; Loeb. This is the man with 9 consecutive world drivers titles, destroying every record in the WRC. However, apart from their shared nationality and first name, they are absolutely nothing alike. In this article we take a look at how Sebastien Ogier made a name for himself in rallying, how he dethroned a former king, and why he is highly respected in all of motorsport.
2010 saw a young Sebastien Ogier join Citroen Racing and become a team mate of Sebastien Loeb, the most successful WRC driver of all time. Fast forward to Rally Mexico 2011. Ogier had pushed Loeb to the limit all weekend, and he was ultimately leading the rally at the start of the final day's stages. However, Loeb was fighting back. In the first stage of the final day, Ogier was felt the pressure of a pursuing Loeb. He began the stage flat out, but over committed to a corner and slid wide into an embankment. An uncharacteristic error, the crash ripped the rear left wheel out and broke the suspension. Ogier retired and Loeb to took the win.
Their relationship began to break down in that season's Acropolis Rally in Greece. Ogier claimed a commanding victory, but he upset Loeb in the process. Ogier was leading the rally nearing the end of Saturday's stages, and decided to slow down to let Loeb take the rally lead. This tactic ensured that Loeb was the first on the road the next day. Being first on the road and dealing with very loose gravel is usually a disadvantage, and this allowed Ogier to again take the rally lead and ultimately the win.
Building a championship winning team.
Sebastien Ogier left Citroen Racing at the end of the 2011 season, citing differences with the management of the team. This seemingly left him without a drive, until Volkswagen Motorsport showed up. With a strong desire to enter the highest level of rallying with a works team, VW signed Sebastien Ogier as their number 1 driver and to lead their development. For the 2012 season, they ran him in a Skoda Fabia S200 while they developed the Volkswagen Polo R WRC for a full championship assault in 2013. Even though Ogier was in an S2000 and not a full WRC car, and that he didn't contest the full season of events, he still consistently finished rallies in the top 10. He took a 5th place in Sardinia, the highest ever finish for an S2000 car in the WRC.
With their development complete, Volkswagen Motorsport unveiled their brand new Polo R WRC car in 2013, and they commenced it's assault on the championship in Rally Monte Carlo. After a hard fought season, with multiple reliability issues from the brand new Polo R WRC, Sebastien Ogier clinched his first world championship. He did so in the very first stage of Rally France, a glorious moment for the Frenchman, and dethroning a dominant 9 time world champion in the process.
4 consecutive titles and cementing a legacy.
Sebastien Ogier and Volkswagen Motorsport proved to be another dominant pairing in the WRC, drawing comparisons to Loeb's dominance with Citroen Racing. Ogier would eventually grow tired of these comparisons in the press. Once presented with such a comparison, he responded; “I can tell you, I’m not the new Loeb, I am Ogier." During the next 4 seasons with the team, he endeavoured to prove that. He consolidated this with 4 consecutive titles. The new king had arrived.
During his time at Volkswagen Motorsport, Sebastien Ogier played an integral role in the development and the refinement of the Polo R WRC. This car proved to be an almost unbeatable rally car during the 4 years that Volkswagen dominated. To this day, the car is still statistically the most successful rally car in WRC history, having claimed more rally wins than any other car.
Capitalising on opportunities.
A reoccuring theme in Sebastien Ogier's WRC career is adversity. On a number of occasions he has been in difficult situations regarding teams. When Volkswagen Motorsport decided to pull out of the WRC in 2016, he was left without a drive. Instead of leaving WRC, he moved to M-Sport Ford, a private team without the same level of funding as a manufacturer team. Many questioned this move, as the team was a significant underdog at the time. He fought on to win 2 consecutive titles with this team. During the second title campaign with M-Sport, Thierry Neuville led for the majority of the championship. Ogier just managed to turn it around and to win the title in the final round. He then moved back to Citroen Racing when Ford limited it's support to the M-Sport outfit.
Just last year when Citroen Racing withdrew from the WRC, he moved to Toyota and he is now leading the championship. With Sebastien Ogier, it doesn't seem to matter what team he is in or what car he is in, he is never far from glory.