Mon 09 May 2022

Ogier: ‘I need to learn my gravel limits'

Returning superstar Sébastien Ogier says he doesn’t know his performance level ahead of his hybrid-era gravel debut at next week’s Vodafone Rally de Portugal (19 - 22 May).

The eight-time world champion is running a part programme in this year’s FIA World Rally Championship. He hasn’t been seen in Toyota Gazoo Racing’s GR Yaris since finishing second at the season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo after a thrilling fight with Sébastien Loeb.

The Frenchman, who replaces Esapekka Lappi in the Japanese manufacturer’s line-up, tested a GR Yaris on dirt in Portugal last week ahead of round four of the 2022 campaign, He was impressed with how the car has evolved since January.

“It’s a challenge [to come back to the car] after three months,” said Ogier. “It’s not huge, but I have to try to find the right feeling. It’s more exciting when you come back – I took some holidays with my family and I’m feeling quite fresh right now.

“For sure, the car has changed quite a bit since last time, but it’s also the first time on gravel for me, so it’s very new – and the car behaves pretty differently to the previous generation [of World Rally Cars].

“It’s kind of learning again for me to find out what I can do and where are the limits. It’s hard to estimate which level we’re at, but we’ll know soon enough when the race starts.”

Ogier is no stranger to success in Portugal, having won the event five times previously.

“Most of those wins were in the south,” he said, referencing his victories on a Faro-based Rally de Portugal, “but I have one in the north.

“I’m looking forward to see how it goes, hopefully we can deliver a good show. I love to drive on gravel and these are some of the most beautiful gravel roads in the championship.”

Ogier will start the opening leg eighth in the running order. With the long-term weather forecast indicating warm and dry conditions, that would be a huge advantage as the slippery sandy roads would be swept clean by the early starters to leave more grip for those behind.

“I’m not starting at the front, which is something new for me, and hopefully we can make some advantage from that,” Ogier added.

Video: Vodafone Rally de Portugal trailer
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