Sun 02 Oct 2022

Ogier's pride at passing down the crown

There were emotional scenes on the Repco Rally New Zealand podium as Sébastien Ogier paid tribute to newly-crowned WRC champion Kalle Rovanperä.

Ogier has become something of an FIA World Rally Championship legend, taking eight titles over the past decade. But the Frenchman’s reign came to an end on Sunday as he stepped aside for Toyota Gazoo Racing team-mate Kalle Rovanperä.

Rovanperä sealed the deal after winning the Auckland-based 11th round and, in the process, became the youngest driver in the history of the sport to lift the crown aged 22 years and one day. 

With Ogier now contesting a part-time programme in a GR Yaris as he concentrates on maintaining a work-life balance, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see him claim another world championship. There were no hard feelings for the Frenchman, though, as he lauded his colleague’s success.

“It’s hard to find the words,” Ogier said. “It’s incredible what he has achieved, for sure. I mean, 22 years old - I think it will take a long time for this record to be broken.

“Kalle is like the reincarnation of Kimi [Räikkönen] in rallying maybe - like completely cold-blooded and sometimes he has no emotions! But I hope he has [emotions] today because he should enjoy this moment.

“It’s been an impressive season and again, in difficult conditions this weekend, he proved that he is a very worthy champion. Well done to him and of course also to the whole team because we win and lose together.”

Ogier played a key role in Rovanperä's title bid as he held off the Finn’s nearest title challenger Ott Tänak to secure a Yaris 1-2 down under. 

The 38-year-old relished the chance to be back on Kiwi gravel after the rally’s 10-year hiatus and was proud with his performance after a few months out of the seat.

“It’s been a very good comeback, I would say,” he smiled. “I enjoyed the weekend. They were very nice stages, I enjoyed being in the car and I can also be happy with my rhythm as well.

“It’s been a difficult rally with some high-speed sections and a lot of rain, so to be on the pace that we were on after three months out of competition is not so bad at all.”

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