17 Dec 09
Sebastien Ogier was always going to have a tough act to follow when he joined Citroen. After all, the last French Sebastien the firm signed went on to win six back-to-back titles. No pressure, then.
It didn't help that as well as their forenames the two Sebastiens seemed to have an awful lot else in common. Both arrived in the WRC blazing the colours of the French motorsport Federation (the FFSA), both made their championship debuts driving two-wheel drive 1600cc Citroens, and both were offered works team drives with the firm after winning the Junior World Rally Championship title.
After following a near identical career trajectory as his illustrious team-mate (but reaching the World Rally Car level two years sooner) there was great excitement on Rally GB 2008 when Ogier, then 24, cashed in a C4 WRC drive for winning the Junior title. He made a brilliant start, shooting into the rally lead and staying there for much of the opening day before a gearbox problem ended his challenge. He eventually finished 26th, but the point had been made.
For 2009 Ogier was given his first serious crack at the big league with a six-round WRC programme with the Citroen Junior team to prove his potential to Citroen Racing boss, Olivier Quesnel.
But after opening his account with a solid sixth in Ireland, the Ogier magic seemed to fade and his next few rallies were notable only for mistakes. After a particularly embarrassing retirement in Cyprus, where he crashed out on the last stage, Ogier's chances of extending his programme started to look doubtful.
He got himself back on track in Argentina, with a solid seventh place, but broke his car and retired from the event which followed in Sardinia. Quesnel, however, stood by his man and ran Ogier on all 12 rounds of the series. Ogier repaid that faith by scoring the team's first podium on round six in Greece and followed that with a string of top five performances. Although his season ended ignominiously when he rolled out of fifth in Rally GB, Citroen later announced Ogier would be back for 2010 as team-mate to their latest signing, F1 convert Kimi Raikkonen.
After the announcement Ogier spoke to wrc.com about his debut season and his hopes for 2010 and beyond.
You started 2009 with just six rallies on which to prove your potential in a World Rally Car. How much pressure were you under to get good results?
"It wasn't a very big pressure because while at the start it was just six rallies I always thought it would end up being more. From the beginning Olivier [Quesnel] said okay, we start with six, but he told me not to try and prove everything on them."
But after four rallies you still only had three points on the board. Was there more pressure then?
"Yeah, there was more pressure, but I put it on myself. At the time it was difficult to understand why I was in such a position. The mistakes I was making were not always so bad but they seemed to have big consequences. It was a difficult period for me, but in hindsight the mistakes helped me to progress. I always tried to understand why what happened had happened. It was a part of the learning process."