OGIER NOT FIGHTING MEEKE IN CORSICA
Reigning champion to keep focused on title battle
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.
Meeke will have win aim Ogier (l) says he won’t chase Meeke (r) Ogier will concentrate on another world title