Tuesday | 17 Aug 2021

Ogier puzzled by Ypres road conditions

Sébastien Ogier admits opening the roads at last weekend’s Renties Ypres Rally Belgium was one of the most difficult jobs of his rally career.

The FIA World Rally Championship leader was first in the start order in Friday afternoon’s opening leg on West Flanders’ narrow farm lanes. The slippery roads left him trailing pace-setter Thierry Neuville by almost 40sec, a gap he could not recover over the remaining two days.

“Before the start, the drivers who knew it warned us that opening the road could be a daunting task, but I’ve never experienced anything like it in my career and had no idea it would be so severe,” Ogier explained.

“The first passes on the stages through the fields were difficult. After these last weeks of rain, the passing of tractors had brought a lot of mud onto the road.

Video: Renties Ypres Rally Belgium review

“When it was dried by the sun it turned into a layer of dust that made the asphalt much more slippery than what we expected for the first runs. The second passes went much better, but it was very hard to make up the time lost.”

Ogier felt further hampered by a pre-event test on a road unrepresentative of the stages to come.

“It didn’t allow us an optimal preparation,” he said. “We nevertheless worked a lot on the car’s set-up and we made the necessary adjustments so that I had a better feeling as the weekend progressed and we got back up to the pace of the best cars.”

A final day puncture eventually ended Ogier’s hopes of snatching a podium and he had to settle for fifth in his Toyota Yaris. Nevertheless, bonus points for second fastest time in the closing Wolf Power Stage meant he left Ypres with his series lead enhanced by a point.

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“That’s not so bad and now we’re going to put this rally behind us and focus on the next one. We’ll be heading to Greece. I really love that country and it is part of the history of the WRC, so I’ll be very happy to be there again,” the Frenchman added.

He heads to Greece with a 38-point advantage over Elfyn Evans and Belgium winner Thierry Neuville.

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