Reign­ing cham­pion to keep fo­cused on ti­tle bat­tle

Motor Sport News - - Headline News - By David Evans

Se­bastien Ogier won’t get drawn into a bat­tle with Bri­tain’s Kris Meeke when the pair meet at the Tour of Cor­sica at the end of this month.

Meeke’s Por­tu­gal vic­tory came on an event where Ogier was hin­dered by run­ning first on the gravel stages. The French­man was strug­gling in sim­i­lar – if less se­vere – con­di­tions when he slipped off the road in Fin­land, scene of the North­ern Ir­ish­man’s sec­ond win. Volk­swa­gen’s then team prin­ci­pal Jost Capito said Meeke’s suc­cess de­val­ued the cham­pi­onship, given the Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team’s de­ci­sion to only run a part-pro­gramme this sea­son.

Ogier and Meeke have clashed on the sub­ject of the run­ning or­der on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions and many have been look­ing for­ward to see­ing them go head-to-head on the French is­land.

Ogier, how­ever, wasn’t about to be drawn into a war of words and said his fo­cus would be on points help­ing to ce­ment a fourth straight ti­tle.

The de­fend­ing cham­pion told MN: “I see be­hind your ques­tion you ask me if I need a re­venge or some­thing on Kris. I don’t feel in this po­si­tion be­cause I haven’t fought with him at all this sea­son. Es­pe­cially on the gravel events we never fought to­gether for sure. In Monte Carlo, I had the ad­van­tage over him and he was do­ing great and he was not so far be­hind me when he had his trou­ble. But for Cor­sica, he will def­i­nitely not be my fo­cus. I still have the cham­pi­onship to be done. I am go­ing to be fo­cus­ing on the points.

“OK, I think it would be ex­cit­ing to have the bat­tle with Kris, but to be hon­est can you imag­ine the sit­u­a­tion when I am in front of my main con­tender for the cham­pi­onship, but I still have Kris in front of me; of course I will try to keep the pres­sure [on Meeke], but I will not give my­self 100 per cent to his fight. That would be stupid.”

Ogier’s re­sponse was en­tirely dif­fer­ent when the fo­cus shifts to next sea­son.

He added: “I am look­ing for­ward to next year, when for sure he will be one of the big­gest con­tenders. I am sure he’s ready and the team is ready to be fight­ing at the front.”

Ogier can be crowned world cham­pion for the fourth time in Cor­sica, but he would need vic­tory, a pow­er­stage win and his near­est ti­tle ri­vals to re­tire. Math­e­mat­i­cally, seven driv­ers can still win the cham­pi­onship, with 112 points still on of­fer from the re­main­ing four rounds.

“This is the first chance to win the ti­tle,” he said, “but this chance is very small. I don’t fo­cus on that chance at all.

“I think about it in some way, like I do for every race – they are all im­por­tant for the cham­pi­onship. It would be nice to fight for the win in Cor­sica as it’s only the sec­ond time I have com­peted on this event in a World Rally Car, and it would be a nice one to win.”

Volk­swa­gen has lifted its prepa­ra­tions for Cor­sica, with Ogier com­plet­ing his pre-event test in the cur­rent Polo R WRC as op­posed to the 2017 car, which has been used for the ma­jor­ity of the other pre-event tests this sea­son.

“Be­cause we lost China, we are test­ing with the cur­rent car,” said Ogier. “It’s quite a gap from Germany [un­til Cor­sica]. This is good. But I agree 100 per cent with the de­ci­sion to test with the 2017 car this year. We are still a lit­tle bit be­hind some of our ri­vals. In ar­eas like the cen­tre dif­fer­en­tial, for ex­am­ple, we do not have the same ex­pe­ri­ence as Citroen, we have not used it be­fore – that’s why we needed as much test­ing time as we could pos­si­bly get.”

Cor­sica is the event where Ogier has the least ex­pe­ri­ence of any cur­rent WRC rounds. Last year was his first time back on the is­land where he clinched his Ju­nior WRC ti­tle in 2008. Twelve months ago, the Volk­swa­gen man was re­stricted to 15th place af­ter a punc­ture and a gear­box prob­lem on the open­ing day.

Pho­tos: mck­lein-im­age­database.com

Meeke will have win aim Ogier (l) says he won’t chase Meeke (r) Ogier will con­cen­trate on an­other world ti­tle

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.