In the second part of our special focus on the three drivers involved in the absorbing battle for the WRC title, we turn the spotlight on Citroën Racing’s Sébastien Ogier.
Ogier sits second in the standings with three rounds to go. What are his chances of topping the table for a seventh straight year come the end of the season?
In a word: good. Maybe. Perhaps two words are better than one, let’s try: not bad.
Put it this way, 12 months ago he went to Wales Rally GB 24 points down in third place. Three rallies and just over a month later, the Frenchman left Australia as champion with 18 points in hand.
On paper, the numbers run in Ogier’s favour. He’s got the most experience of the final three fixtures in Britain, RallyRACC Catalunya - Rally de España and Kennards Hire Rally Australia, having started them collectively 30 times.
That’s nine more than Thierry Neuville and 11 more than series leader Ott Tänak. That’s a lot of experience.
And, he’s the only one to have won in Wales, Spain and Australia. Four years ago, had it not been for a momentary lapse in a Catalan left-hander, Ogier would have won all three. A year on and he won two of the three and finished second in Coffs Harbour.
Last year, he won in Wales, settled for second behind a charging and non-championship participating Sébastien Loeb in Spain and then took the title with fifth Down Under.
Enough of the numbers, the stats are definitely shining a light on Ogier. But that’s history.
The here and now dictates Tänak and Toyota are the combination to beat on fast gravel. In fact, they’re the go-to combination for any kind of gravel – apart from the rough, rocky stuff found in Turkey.
Ogier knows that. But he’s also aware his C3 WRC is getting quicker (admittedly, probably not as quickly as he would like) and last time out on the fast loose Esapekka Lappi was sensationally speedy and second in Finland. Ogier in Finland? Fifth and, quite literally, sick as a dog.
As we delve deeper into the season’s business end, rally craft, consistency and the ability to drive under massive pressure comes to the fore. Ogier has shown time and again he’s the master of all three. On top of that, he’s a six-time world champ.
Like we said at the top of this one, his chance of a seventh straight title in three rallies’ time?