BEGINS ANEWWRC CHAPTER
Sebastien Ogier said goodbye to his “best boss ever” in M-sport’s Malcolm Wilson last week and now turns his attention to making more World Rally Championship history with Citroen.
The Frenchman will aim to become just the second driver ever to win world titles with three different manufacturers next season – and he starts that challenge having learned plenty from M-sport.
“You are always learning in this sport,” Ogier told MN, “and certainly my time at M-sport has made me stronger. I have to say thank you to them for that – and a big thank you to my friend and my best boss Malcolm.”
Sebastien Ogier flew out of Britain following an emotional farewell to his World Rally Championshipwinning M-sport team earlier this week, admitting his time with the Cumbrian squad would stay in his heart forever.
Ogier, co-driver Julien Ingrassia and more than 250 of the team’s staff attended the send-off at Dovenby Hall on Monday.
Ogier said: “This team and these people will always be special for Julien and I. We feel now like we are part of the M-sport family and will stay like this, we will always have this team close to our heart. I have to say an incredibly big thank you to all of the guys in this team,they have been so fantastic for two years. And, of course, I want to say a special thank you to the boss. The best boss I had, to Malcolm [Wilson]. He made all of this possible.”
Team principal Wilson added: “I don’t know what I can say. For two years these guys have just kept on delivering. I wanted to bring them here so badly and they delivered on every level for us. We’ve learned a lot from them and the job for us now is to use that and to take it forward.”
Ogier’s focus must now shift to developing the Citroen C3 WRC he will drive for the next two years – the final two years – in his WRC career. Back with the French manufacturer he last competed with in 2011, he tested the car for the first time in Portugal last week.
“I drove only for two days,” the Frenchman told MN, “so it’s really too early to say what is the feeling with the car. The one thing I can say straight away is that I didn’t discover something which is worrying me, there was no bad surprise for me. We started to work [with the team] like I expected we would, which is good.
“There are of course lots of areas for us on the car to look at and this will take a bit of time: differential, for example, but again but my initial feeling is not too bad and I’m sure we’ll find the right solutions quite quickly.”
Part of Ogier’s motivation for the switch from M-sport to Citroen was the chance to become only the second driver in the sport’s history to win the world championship with three different manufacturers. Juha Kankkunen was the first, winning with Peugeot, Lancia and Toyota. In addition to his two titles with M-sport, Ogier has four with Volkswagen.
“It’s an interesting challenge,” said Ogier. “And I really think there’s potential, with the equipment here to write a nice story, but from here on it’s going to be important to quickly see what works and what works less well to try to feel as well prepared as possible from Monte Carlo.”
Ogier, who will be back aboard a C3 WRC for a Monte Carlo test
later this month, says he will need the full support of the Citroen team in his bid for a sixth consecutive successful title defence.
“That’s not something that you can do on your own,” he said.
Citroen team principal Pierre Budar told MN he had budgeted for all of Ogier’s development needs with the C3.
“We are committed to have several tests of course with Sebastien and Esapekka [Lappi, Ogier’s new team-mate] and we are also committed to do all the necessary development – everything has been included in our budget for next year. We will develop what is necessary according to what we will decide with them. Our first test [in Portugal] was a working session to have some first guidelines shared between us.”
Budar admitted he was delighted to see Ogier back in the team, adding: “It’s a very nice feeling and also a friendly feeling because Seb was quite in the family already. Very quickly we could see this feeling was very nice with all of the team. He knows a few people in the team already from his first period in Citroen. The feeling was as if he was at home and it’s very nice to see him back at home, it’s like that.”
Ogier drove his new mount for two days last week and will drive again before Monte
Crew: Fond Ford memories
Ogier was pleased after maiden run in the Citroen
Ogier finished third in the points in 2011 for the Citroen team