OGIER BACK TO CITROEN FOR 2019
Lack of ford M-Sport backing leads to french star’s ex it
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