Sébastien Ogier is back with his old classmates at Citroën Racing and the six-time world champion has settled in quickly through the first half of the 2019 term.
The defending champion is second in the drivers’ standings, just four points adrift of Ott Tänak. Ogier and Citroën haven’t been able to deliver the crushing dominance we’ve seen from both in years gone by, but the Frenchman has shown exceptional consistency.
Nobody has scored more podiums than the six Ogier has delivered from eight rallies.
Few of those have been more memorable than a sixth straight (and seventh in total) win at Rallye Monte-Carlo. A French driver winning on French roads in a French car – it was a French lesson for the rest of the field.
Ogier lost the championship lead in a Swedish snowbank and it took him four rounds until he could get back to the top of the class with second place in Chile. A Portuguese podium next time out kept him there ahead of Rally Italia Sardegna, admittedly not where he’d hoped to be running first on the road.
Ogier’s outing on the Italian island turned out to be his most trying of the year. He turned in too early and smashed the C3’s front left suspension on one of the bigger boulders lining the Monte Baranta test.
Furious with himself, Ogier fronted up, accepted the blame and got on with some testing for the remaining two days. With one stage remaining, Ogier, like his fellow Tänak-chaser Thierry Neuville, had accepted the Estonian would put clear air between them.
Tänak’s Wolf Power Stage malaise, however, ensured Ogier and Neuville remain much closer at half-term.
Ogier has demonstrated the dogged, determined side of his character. If the Citroën late summer and autumn updates bear fruit, then a seventh straight title could be on the cards.
Ogier wasn’t the only driver switching to a Citroën uniform this year, with Finn Esapekka Lappi moving from Toyota to join the class of Versailles.
Second on only his second outing in a C3 demonstrated Lappi was quick to feel at home with new car and team in Sweden. But that snowy runners-up spot was as good as it would get for the amiable Scandinavian.
Time and again he looked lost as he tried to dial himself into the Citroën to deliver the sort of speed he used to win Neste Rally Finland two years ago. Lappi is his own harshest critic. He knows what he’s got to do and he’ll work as hard as anybody to improve those grades.
Citroën lies third in the manufacturers’ championship and has lost ground to the chasing M-Sport Ford squad in the last two rallies.