Wednesday | 26 Feb 2014

One to watch in Mexico: Sebastien Ogier

The reigning World Rally Champion has had a tough start to 2014, at least by his own exacting standards.

With two events complete, the name at the top of the drivers’ championship standings isn’t Ogier’s. It’s that of his team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala. That will grate with the Frenchman. We expect Rally Mexico’s gravel stages to provide the backdrop for Ogier’s championship fight back. Here are the reasons why:

1. A leader, not a follower:

There’s no doubt about it, Ogier isn’t pleased that his VW Motorsport team-mate Latvala has scored five more points than him on the first two rallies of the season.

Ogier has been uncharacteristically ragged on more than one occasion already this year – crashing on the first corner of the first stage in Monte Carlo and losing more than four minutes in a snow bank in Sweden are two cases in point.

He’ll be desperate to tidy his act up and make sure he leaves Mexico as the championship leader and relegates Latvala to the ‘follower’.

2. Previous form breeds confidence:

Ogier won Rally Mexico in 2013 and has a penchant for avoiding trouble on rough gravel rallies.

He blitzed his opposition last year, carving out a 3m 26s advantage over Citroen rival Mikko Hirvonen at the finish and even finished the event in an impressive 8th place a year earlier when he drove a S2000 Skoda Fabia on the Central American rally.

Both of these results will give Ogier massive confidence, as will the fact that he won't be running first on the road and sweeping gravel to the benefit of the drivers behind.

3. Making a name for himself:

Rally Mexico hasn’t just been kind to Ogier in four-wheel-drive cars. The event was also mighty generous to him when he tackled it in a two-wheel-drive Citroen C2 S1600 car in 2008.

Rally Mexico formed part of the FIA Junior World Rally Championship in those days and the fast-emerging Ogier didn’t waste any time putting his stamp on the feeder series.

He won the JWRC category at a canter and turned more than a few heads by finishing eighth overall. It was a remarkable achievement and one that set Ogier on his way to the JWRC title that year.

4. Perfect preparation:

Rally Mexico brings heat, dust and energy-sapping altitude. Drivers need to be on top of their game physically to eek out any kind of positive result.

Ogier knows that so he’s slotted in some extra fitness sessions with his personal trainer between Sweden and Mexico to make sure his body is ready for the fierce championship battle that he’s going to bring to the stages.

The 17-time WRC winner has also flown to Mexico nice and early to acclimatise to the weather and time difference. A shrewd move.