Sébastien Ogier has paid tribute to the role played by M-Sport World Rally Team colleagues Ott Tänak and Elfyn Evans in helping his pursuit of a fifth consecutive WRC title.
Ogier’s second victory of the season at Vodafone Rally de Portugal on Sunday increased his points lead to 22 over Thierry Neuville, with next month’s Rally Italia Sardegna (8 - 11 June) marking the midpoint of the season.
His win matched Markku Alén’s record of five successes in Portugal and came after a fierce tussle with Tänak, which ended when the Estonian swiped a bank and damaged his Ford Fiesta’s suspension and brakes.
“The fight with Ott was intense. He had really good speed this weekend so without his mistake I’m sure it would have been very close,” Ogier told wrc.com.
“His speed is good for me and the team because we score points together, but also because we’re pushing the limit of the car and improving its development. For me, at the beginning of the year, it was good to have him alongside because I had little experience with this car.
“Together we’re making a great team, and also with Elfyn, who is strong this season. We definitely have a chance of the manufacturers’ title and that would be amazing for a private team against the factory teams.”
While M-Sport heads the manufacturers’ standings by 26 points from Hyundai Motorsport, Ogier believes his rivals for the drivers’ crown have narrowed.
“Myself, Ott, Jari-Matti Latvala and Thierry – we’re almost halfway through the season and I think that’s the four guys who still have a chance of the title.
“Dani Sordo is a bit more far away now so I would say you could bet it will be one of these four who will be champion at the end of the year,” he said.
Ogier was relieved to bounce back from a troubled drive at the previous round in Argentina when car issues slowed him.
“A lot has changed. On the set-up, we had an important test before this rally where we changed quite a few things, in the suspension and differential. In Argentina I had a hard weekend and I’m happy to react in this way and to win with a beautiful victory,” he added.