OGIER SET FOR M-SPORT TEST RUN
M-sport boss tries to tempt champion with test run this week
M-sport’s Malcolm Wilson says he will do whatever it takes to bring Sebastien Ogier to his team for next season, with the Frenchman set to test a Ford Fiesta RS WRC for the first time in Wales this week.
Ogier told MN he intends to test all the cars available to him for next season, with Toyota’s Tommi Makinen reportedly given a green light to offer around £8.5m for the four-time champion’s signature.
Sources close to Ogier feel money won’t be the driving force in a move brought about by Volkswagen’s decision to quit the World Rally Championship. What he wants is the most competitive car to pursue a fifth straight title.
Ogier said: “I plan to test all the cars, to have as many cards in my hand to judge the best for my future. That’s the target for now. There’s a lot of rumours around, but all I can say is that I talk to a lot of people and at least I have this chance that a lot of people call me because they want me in their team. I have made no decision.”
Wilson didn’t travel to last week’s WRC season finale in Australia, preferring instead to remain in Britain to work on financing a possible Ogier deal.
“I’m willing to go to lengths I’ve not been to before to bring him here,” said Wilson. “I stand by what I’ve said before: this remains one of the best opportunities this company has ever had and I can’t let it slip by. Sebastien knows what he wants and I absolutely respect that.”
Wilson has every confidence in his car’s ability to stand toe-to-toe with any of the other 2017 machinery on offer to Ogier.
“Even if we don’t get Sebastien for next season, I have to say that I am very excited about what’s to come from this car,” said Wilson. “And I’m confident in what it will be capable of with the strong driver line-up that we have planned for next year.”
Hopes of Ogier returning to Citroen appear to be fading, with the French manufacturer struggling to find a solution to bring the Gap man back to Paris. And sources insist Ogier won’t be allowed to drive a C3 WRC without a signed contract to compete with them. It’s the same deal with Hyundai, with three drivers under contract, there’s no car and no seat for Ogier.
There is, however, one more option for the reigning world champion: sitting out the next season.
On that suggestion, he told MN: “I don’t put this option on top of the list, but it’s not impossible. At least I would not see this as the end of the world. Maybe my wife would be more happy for this!”
Ogier is still working closely with Volkswagen to confirm the status of his contract. His current team principal Sven Smeets said he was doing all he could to help.
“It needs to be done as soon as possible,” said Ogier. “We are already late to be in the optimal condition for Monte Carlo. I hope to make my decision soon. There are a couple of teams willing to work with me, but I cannot say the situation is comfortable.”
Rally Australia winner Andreas Mikkelsen and Jari-matti Latvala are forced to wait on Ogier’s next move before they can try to sort themselves out.
Mikkelsen said: “That’s it; we are just waiting on what Sebastien wants to do – he is the first choice for the manufacturers, so we have to wait and take what he doesn’t want. When he knows, then me and Jari-matti will know where we end up. I’m sure there are lots of opportunities, I’m very confident I will be in a World Rally Car.”
Latvala is rumoured to have been offered a contract with Toyota already and that’s looking like his best option.
Talk of tragedy was in full flow in Coffs Harbour last week.
Volkswagen’s departure from the sport sent some into histrionic overdrive as sentences were sought to encapsulate the kind of unprecedented heartbreak which had enveloped the German corner of the service park.
Until sunrise on Saturday, I was right up there with them.
Calling Cumbria for an update on M-sport’s efforts to deliver Sebastien Ogier to Dovenby, Malcolm Wilson sounded strange. Something was wrong. “Haven’t you heard about Foubie?” he said. Something was very wrong. Peter Foubister was gone. How could that be? Ogier, Volkswagen, everything else went out of the window while Malcolm and I tried to take the news in.
I couldn’t come close to the kind of memories MW had with Autosport’s former rallies editor and editor. Since the horrible news broke, there have been constant reminders of just what a huge figure Foubie was in motorsport – with tributes coming in from all around the world.
“He was an inspiration to so many people,” Malcolm said.
He certainly was. When I was starting out, Foub was a figure of high reverence for me. High reverence, that is, and fear.
I remember an early professional conversation with Colin Mcrae. Lanark’s finest made it quite clear that following in Foubie’s footsteps was the only way forward for anybody hoping to make it in the world of rally writing. He paused only briefly before launching into the first of many stories involving a bar. And a hat.
None of that really helped me, early doors. It helped even less that I was given my marching orders in his office – sitting beneath that glorious painting of Mcrae in a Subaru Impreza. A few months after landing at MN, I was still struggling to come to terms with actually working in my dream job.
Foub helped. He put an arm around me and helped. So low was I down the food chain, I was surprised I even figured on his radar. Not long after, asked what he thought of MN’S rallies department, he said: “It’s not a department in crisis.”
Six words that saved my career. I have an awful lot to thank him for.
From opposite ends of the company pay scale, our friendship developed, and continued to do so after he departed Autosport.
While our paths crossed less and less in later years, there was always time – usually in the bar – at the Autosport Awards. He remained full of encouragement for my work and his interest in our sport as deep-set and perfectly informed as ever. Humbling wouldn’t come close.
Earlier this month, I’d been supposed to join him at the RAC club for an evening of Metro 6R4 recollections. The date clashed with a test I had to attend in Wales, meaning it was Aberystwyth rather than Pall Mall. Foub understood. How I regret that decision now. How I would like the chance to thank him one more time and remind him again of how right Colin Mcrae was all those years ago.
Goodbye Foub. And thank you.
Ogier wants to see all his options VW is out, so Ogier is in need of a fresh start