Wed 11 May 2022

Fowler: Ogier v Loeb rivalry ‘adds spice’ to WRC

Toyota Gazoo Racing technical director Tom Fowler smiled at the question.

After more than two years working with Sébastien Ogier, he has his answer ready.

Yes, Fowler thinks the eight-time champion is looking forward to taking on his countryman and nine-time champion Sébastien Loeb at next week’s Vodafone Rally Portugal (19 - 22 May).

And yes, he thinks Ogier could overturn the result from the season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo by winning in Matosinhos at the first gravel fixture of the hybrid era. M-Sport Ford driver Loeb snatched victory in the French Alps in a Puma Rally1 from beneath the nose of his rival’s GR Yaris.

“I think he has a chance to win… because he’s Sébastien Ogier,” enough said from Fowler. But what about the rivalry with Loeb?

“It’s good,” he said. “I think they want this kind of thing themselves. I think the rivalry is part of the reason why they want to do these events – they want to meet each other again. While I’m sure they’re friends, this isn’t a personal thing, it’s more on the basis of the next battle.

“If you look at it sensibly, Ogier’s had more time in the car recently, he’s done Portugal more recently and you would have to say he should have the upper hand. Like I said, it’s great, it’s good for the championship and it adds a bit more spice to things.”

If the weather remains dry, the odds looks to be more in Ogier’s favour next week. The Gap driver will start the opening leg eighth in the start order, four places behind Loeb and on cleaner roads that would offer more grip.

• Full coverage from Vodafone Rally de Portugal will be available on WRC+ All Live here, including every stage broadcast as it happens as well as key interviews, features and expert analysis from the service park

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