Sébastien Ogier has played down his chances of claiming a record-breaking sixth victory at Vodafone Rally de Portugal this weekend (17-20 May) – saying it would be ‘stupid’ to push too hard from his position as Friday’s road opener.
The M-Sport Ford driver comes into the sixth round of the year as a five-time winner in Portugal, a record he shares with Finnish WRC legend Markku Alén. However, the Frenchman isn’t confident he’ll take win number six.
“Of course, I would love to get another victory – that’s no question – but I would rather not think about it now,” Ogier told wrc.com. “The challenge of starting first this weekend is very big and I believe my chances of winning are very small.”
As championship leader, Ogier will begin the rally first in the start order, never a good position on the event’s notoriously loose gravel stages.
The challenge of starting first this time has been compounded by a dry weather forecast for the weekend, making the stages looser than in 2017 when different conditions allowed the Frenchman to minimise his time loss.
He added: “With the competitiveness of the championship right now, it is going to be difficult not to lose too much time. The first stage shouldn’t be too bad, but the problem is the next ones – especially Ponte de Lima – they are very dry and loose so those might be difficult.
“Last year there was a bit of humidity on Friday morning which helped me, but it doesn’t look like we’ll have that this year.”
Ogier comes into the rally with a 10-point lead in the championship over Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville, but said it would be a ‘stupid approach’ to focus more on rally wins than the championship.
“Sometimes you have to be clever if there is absolutely no chance of winning a rally because of the handicap of starting first. It would be stupid to drive at 110 percent – it would be impossible to overcome the handicap and you have a very big chance of crashing,” he said.
“That isn’t my approach, it would be a stupid approach for someone who wanted to win the championship.”
Latvala tops warm-up
Finn edges Ogier and Neuville in shakedown
Service Park spy: Portugal
Here’s what we noticed in the Exponor service park
Tänak targets double top
Estonian confident after Argentine victory