OGIER V PADDON ON RUNNING ORDER ROW
Duo spar over conflicting views on who runs first
Sebastien Ogier and Hayden Paddon went head-to-head over the current road order rules as Ogier continues to run first on the road for the majority of World Championship events.
The hostility came to a head following the end-of-day press conference last Saturday. Paddon told Ogier he thought it might be better to keep talk of politics and regulations for private discussions – the press conference takes place in the service park and is watched by the general public.
Ogier told Paddon in no uncertain terms that he didn’t know what he was talking about. The pair momentarily squared up to each other before heading to their respective areas of the service park.
Ogier then apologised to Paddon when the pair went to retrieve their cars from parc ferme the next morning. He reportedly told Paddon: “I am sorry for my words, but you are still wrong…”
Ogier was leading the event until the fourth stage, where he dropped time on a road with more loose gravel. Saturday’s Los Gigantes stage was the worst for the Frenchman; he dropped 24 seconds to Paddon on that stage alone. Before team-mate Jari Matti Latvala crashed out, Ogier was 46.4s adrift of his stablemate.
“I am so bored of talking about this,” Ogier told MN. “I just wanted to finish this rally and go home to think about something else. Rallying is quite boring for me at the moment. We get good points for [second] place, but where is the sport? Yes, we can be champion again, but I know we deserve more than this. It’s completely unfair and not how the championship should be for me to run first on the road 80 per cent of the time.
“The problem is that it only comes from me and it’s the same story, but my point of view is always the same. For me, year after year, this championship is getting more and more a joke.”
Asked if he could understand Ogier’s perspective, Paddon told MN: “No. I’d quite happily trade with him to be first on the road, it would mean I was leading and winning championships. At the end of the day, somebody has to have that handicap and we have to have that handicap – it keeps the sport interesting. I went through years of national rallying being first on the road and it keeps it close and it keeps people in the game. For me, if it’s not Ogier sweeping the road, it’s going to be somebody at the back trying to make it in the sport – but they’ll never get the confidence, never get the speed, never get the recognition and that can’t be good for the sport. We need people coming through this sport.
“If I was first on the road, I’d be leading the championship and I’d be quite happy. This is the fairest way. And anyway, look at the calendar: on seven rounds, it’s an advantage to be first on the road – you don’t hear us complaining on those rallies. If he doesn’t want to be first on the road, slow down and drop down the order.”
On the subject of the row with Paddon, Ogier said: “We talked about what was said and I apologised for my words. Sometimes these things happen when emotion is high, now this is behind us. All I can say is that he drove a great rally.”
WRC manager Jarmo Mahonen said there would be no change to the running order regulation this season – but the FIA will review the rules at the end of the year.
Mahonen said: “Of course we will meet about this again. I want to see the whole season, [to see if we] have been successful? Then we will look. I understand how he [Ogier] feels, I understand his frustration, but we have to see the bigger picture: we have to look after the whole championship.
“He [Ogier] doesn’t have to see the big picture and I understand that he has to be selfish – this is part of what makes him so successful. But nobody can say this has been bad for the sport. Look at the final day here in Argentina, we have a very exciting Sunday – we need this.”
Mahonen added that the rule change was implemented to make the championship closer.
He added: “Our intention was to decrease the gaps by not offering the best starting position to the best guy in the championship. Before this, the rallies could be over on Friday. We wanted to bring uncertainty and it seems we have done this. What is the championship if it finishes in the middle of the season? I would like to see it decided on the last round.”
WRC safety delegate Michele Mouton said the current regulation was helping to develop the younger drivers in the series.
“You can see this,” Mouton said. “Look at Kris [Meeke] here last year and now Hayden [Paddon] and some of the others. We know that he [Ogier] is at the top, but some of the others take confidence to fight against him. You can see some of the other drivers have already stopped to fight against him; you see this so easily when you are three or four minutes behind in nearly similar cars. For me, this shows they have given up. But for Kris and Hayden, this rule tells them they have a chance and they take it.”
Ogier and Paddon squared up on Saturday evening Ogier was fighting tough road sweeping conditions