*Photo Credit: Kartik Sadekar & Citroen India
The stage was set for Sebastien Ogier to bridge the gap between him and the championship leader, Ott Tanak, and then go all out on the last rally of the calendar in Australia to retain his title, or at least that was Citroen Racing’s plan. But sadly, for both Citroen and Ogier, the 2019 RACC Rally Catalunya was a weekend marred by disasters, as Ogier was forced to hand over the WRC Drivers’ title to Tanak after winning the first stage due to power steering failure. After finishing eighth in the rally, Ogier spoke to us about the challenges of the 2019 season and his plans for the future.
No doubt that this year was quite challenging for Citroen! Would you say that this season was one of the toughest seasons you have faced so far?
We had worked really hard like we always do. My philosophy is to give my best in every competition, and like always, I gave my best in this season, and the team, of course, tried their best too. But it’s a sport, and there can only be one winner in the end. Like last year, this year too we faced tough competition, but sadly, we couldn’t retain the drivers’ title. Still, it’s not a bad season, we had a lot of podiums and victories.
What do you think held you back this year? Was it that the car was not being able to adjust to the tarmac?
For sure, it was surprising for us, as this used to be our strength – the car used to be very fast on the tarmac. One also has to keep in mind that most rallies happen on gravel, but yes to win the championship, we have to do well on both surfaces.
What problems did the car specifically face on the tarmac?
We had a big problem with the balance, and the car also suffered from understeer in some rallies. This weekend, we did improve a bit – the balance was better, but the pace was still not great. When we were trying to catch up with the competition, we did get close at times, but not close enough, and that’s what determines whether you win or not.
Your contract has now been extended by a year. So, after 2020, will you retire from the sport?
That has always been my plan. I’ve been in this business for quite some time already. Now, I do want to try out something else and, maybe, calm down a bit from the intensity of WRC.
Speaking of intensity, after winning six championship titles, do you feel that your urge to win has become less intense?
When you’re chasing your first championship title, you definitely feel an intense urge to win. But as someone who doesn't like to lose, I like to maintain this intensity. Rally is like wine – with experience and time, you have a better chance of winning more titles while maintaining your calm.
Currently, who do you think are the best drivers in WRC?
Of course, you have to mention Tanak, as he is the world champion, and you don’t become a champion without talent. I think WRC at the moment is very competitive, as there are many capable drivers, who can win rallies and are very fast and consistent. So, in the last three years, we have seen the championship being fought out between Neuville, Tanak, and us.
How difficult was it for you to shift from a championship-winning factory-owned team to a privateer squad in 2017?
Honestly, it felt like a setback when it happened. I thought the world was falling apart when you leave a team where everything is working for you, and you also have a lot of success. But at the end of the day, it gave me a new experience. I really had a good time with this private team as well. It also gave me an opportunity to transform a bad situation into a good one.
When you joined Citroen again, did it take you some time to adapt to the new car?
Yes, it took some time to get used to the car. And, we had a good start in the season too. Sadly, we didn’t improve after that as I’d hoped.
As a rally driver, what do you like to see in 2022 regulations?
We have to follow the social trend. We all know that the world is facing a major problem, and we have to act accordingly. The automobile industry has started doing these changes, and motorsports will have to do the same. We are running a bit behind, but the new rules should make things clear for us.
In case of going electric or hybrid, I’m not sure that electric is the key for the future, but that's one of the elements we need to use right now. But I think that the future holds for us better technology than what we have today.
What does it take to be so dominant in this sport?
First of all, it’s a team sport. So, you need that chance to be with a strong team that will give you the needed support to win. I believe that neither a team nor a driver alone can achieve anything. Like I said earlier, it’s important for you to ask yourself – how can you be better than you are? This has always been my way of going forward.