Lack of ford M-Sport back­ing leads to french star’s ex it

Motor Sport News - - Front Page - By David Evans

Ford’s lack of com­mit­ment to the World Rally Cham­pi­onship forced Se­bastien Ogier to walk away from the M-sport team and back to Citroen for his last two years in the sport.

The French­man won last year’s ti­tle with the Bri­tish-based squad and wanted to re­main in one of Mal­colm Wil­son’s Ford Fi­es­tas next year.

Ogier told MN: “With­out more sup­port from Ford it be­came more and more dif­fi­cult to carry on.”

Five-time World Rally cham­pion Se­bastien Ogier gave Ford an ul­ti­ma­tum to step up and sup­port M-sport’s WRC pro­gramme or he would leave – and he signed for Citroen last week.

The French man­u­fac­turer an­nounced that its former pair­ing of Ogier and co-driver Julien In­gras­sia would re­turn to Ver­sailles in 2019/20. Ogier out­lined his rea­sons for the switch to Mo­tor­sport News ear­lier this week.

The ab­sence of Ford’s in­creased com­mit­ment meant Ogier looked deeper into Citroen’s op­tion for the next two sea­sons.

“It was a dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion,” Ogier told MN. “It’s never easy to take the big de­ci­sion like this one. I had two re­ally good years with M-sport and Ford and we achieved big things to­gether. It’s no se­cret I felt good in this team and work­ing with Mal­colm [Wil­son, team prin­ci­pal] and his guys was nice for me.

“It was not easy to leave them. On the other hand with­out more sup­port from Ford it be­came more and more dif­fi­cult to carry on and at the end it was my de­ci­sion but it was a com­mon de­ci­sion with Mal­colm and me that it was dif­fi­cult to carry on.”

Talk­ing to French news­pa­per L’equipe, Ogier added: “At the end of last year, Ford seemed mo­ti­vated to help us fur­ther and al­low us to raise our level this sea­son but un­for­tu­nately, I was a lit­tle dis­ap­pointed on that side. I gave Ford an ul­ti­ma­tum: ei­ther we had of­fi­cial sup­port, or there was a good chance I would be in­ter­ested to go some­where else. When mak­ing my de­ci­sion I had a heartache to leave Mal­colm and his team be­cause it was not their fault and they did ev­ery­thing to be one [of] the most ef­fi­cient pos­si­ble. We’ve done pretty well on that side, I think. But Ford has not kept pace with the needs.”

Ogier tested Citroen’s C3 WRC in se­cret, but with the knowl­edge of M-sport, at Fon­tjon­couse in the South of France. He told L’equipe he was sat­is­fied with what he found.

“See­ing the car at the fore­front on some races had al­ready given me a good idea of its po­ten­tial,” he said, “but it is sure that judg­ing by my­self is some­thing im­por­tant that I wanted to do be­fore com­mit­ting my­self. We did it, I was able to re­alise cer­tain el­e­ments and this con­tact re­in­forced me in my idea to want to try this ad­ven­ture.”

Ogier re­turns to Citroen af­ter a seven-year ab­sence – and fol­low­ing a trou­bled de­par­ture when he made it clear he would not run as a num­ber two to Se­bastien Loeb. Ogier sees that as wa­ter un­der the bridge now – not least be­cause the man­age­ment struc­ture in place at that time has been re­placed by cur­rent team prin­ci­pal Pierre Bu­dar.

“I kept only the good mem­o­ries of that time,” he said. “It is use­less to dwell on the rest, which some­how made me grow up. On the other hand, the prob­lems I had at the time were with a gen­eral man­age­ment that is no longer there to­day. With the tech­ni­cal team, it al­ways went well and that’s why it was dif­fi­cult to sep­a­rate [in 2011].

“I felt at Citroen a new mo­men­tum at the man­age­ment level. The con­tact quickly went very well with Pierre. It was much eas­ier to talk with him than with his pre­de­ces­sor [Yves Mat­ton] and that’s one of the things that con­vinced me to go in that di­rec­tion.”

As well as find­ing a team with the right level of com­mit­ment in Citroen, Ogier is also keen to win a cham­pi­onship with a third dif­fer­ent man­u­fac­turer. Only Juha Kankkunen (Peu­geot, Lan­cia and Toy­ota) has done this in the his­tory of the WRC.

“There are at­trac­tive things on the side of Citroen and I be­lieve some po­ten­tial to do good things,” he said. “The chance to try to win the ti­tle with a third man­u­fac­turer is an ex­cit­ing chal­lenge for me. Of course, I am aware it won’t be easy and Citroen has been strug­gling in the past years and that means there is cer­tainly some work to be done, but that’s what mo­ti­vates me. And be­ing French, it’s nice to go back to the team where I started my ca­reer. I be­lieve we have the pos­si­bil­ity to write a nice story… but we still have to write it.”

And in writ­ing that story Ogier feels he will give him­self and his fu­ture em­ployer the chance to re­turn the red army to the World Rally Cham­pi­onship pomp which car­ried it to 17 world ti­tles in nine years.

Ogier said: “Citroen comes out of a dif­fi­cult pe­riod in ral­ly­ing and I felt this year, more than the pre­vi­ous years, a de­sire to re­ally give my­self the means to find the level which was that of Citroen a few years ago: to do things well or not to do them at all; when we had the im­pres­sion in re­cent years that they were do­ing things by half.

“It’s all about words and it takes a lot of con­fi­dence be­cause I can­not guar­an­tee that ev­ery­thing will be the way I want it to be, but Pierre man­aged to con­vince me and I feel that we are start­ing from a great ad­ven­ture.”

Ogier: Citroen deal

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