Duo spar over con­flict­ing views on who runs first

Motor Sport News - - Headline News - By David Evans

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.”

Photos: mck­lein-im­age­database.com

Ogier and Paddon squared up on Satur­day evening Ogier was fight­ing tough road sweep­ing con­di­tions

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