Rallye Monte-Carlo winner Sebastien Ogier has admitted his world title defence could have got off to a very different start if his team hadn’t made some improvements to his VW Polo R WRC during the close season.
The Frenchman, who along with co-driver Julien Ingrassia picked up his winners’ trophy from the prince’s palace in Monaco this morning, came close to disaster on the first corner of the very first stage when he understeered into a wall.
He feared it was a rally-ending moment. But the strength of his car came to the rescue and he marched on to win the event by 1m 18s.
“We had a bit of luck this weekend, we have to admit that,” Ogier said. “Our race could have ended on the first corner. All the road section was very humid and then on the first corner of the first stage there was small slush on the road. We understeered into a wall.”
“Fortunately, the improvements we made on the car during the winter were quite clever because we reinforced all the steering and suspension. Now, I think that was a good idea.”
Nearly all of the crews were caught out by the unexpected wintry conditions on Thursday’s first stage and Ogier blamed his mistake on a wrong tyre choice. Just like his rivals, he was using Michelin’s super-soft slick tyre.
Ogier added: “We struggled a lot with the weather information on day one, but fortunately, everyone copied us. If someone had taken four snow tyres, they would maybe have taken a five-minute lead.”
VW Motorsport boss, Jost Capito, acknowledged that Ogier had been fortunate. “If he would have crashed like that in last year’s car, he might have been gone,” he said.