Rally

Ogier downplays expectations of fight with Loeb for WRC Portugal win

Eight-time WRC champion Ogier revealed last week that Portugal will be the second event of his partial 2022 WRC campaign with Toyota.

Ogier has elected to scale back his WRC commitments this year to allow a move into circuit racing courtesy of a LMP2 programme in the World Endurance Championship with Richard Mille Racing.

His return to the WRC in Portugal could set up another potential battle with nine-time champion Loeb who, like Ogier, will be making his first appearance since the season-opening Monte Carlo Rally with M-Sport Ford.

Ogier and Loeb created headlines in January when the pair were involved in a rally-long head-to-head, with Loeb coming out on top after Ogier picked up a puncture on the penultimate stage.

But while the French pair have each won eight times in the principality, Portugal will provide an altogether different challenge as the first time the new-for-2022 Rally1 hybrid machines will have competed on gravel.

Ogier has won in Portugal a record-equalling five times, including his maiden WRC win in 2010 for the Citroen junior team, while Loeb has two wins to his name in 2007 and 2009.

While Ogier is excited to be facing Loeb again on the 19-22 May event, he is not expecting the pair to steal the show like they did in Monte Carlo.

“Of course I’m happy I always enjoy battling with [Loeb],” said Ogier.

“We had a couple of nice fights during our career and it is nice to see that the fans are excited about it.

Sébastien Ogier, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT, Sébastien Loeb, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team

Sébastien Ogier, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT, Sébastien Loeb, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team

Photo by: M-Sport

“I knew there was a good chance [Loeb] was coming to this event, so I was teasing him a bit online to try to get him to announce it.

“I really hope that we will both be able to fight at the front, but I think the set-up and the parameters for this race are different so I don’t expect us to dominate like we did in Monte and battle ahead.

“I hope we will be involved in the fight for the front and that it will be a nice exciting rally.

“There is also Dani [Sordo, also competing for Hyundai] so there are quite a few drivers from the older generation out there.

“In Monte everyone knows it is the rally I love the most to win, and of course there was disappointment to lose it that way.

“I had done the job and for something I couldn’t control I lost it at the end, so that was frustrating for sure.

“But on the other hand it was a great performance from him and he deserved to win, so that is part of the game sometimes you need a bit of luck on your side to win.

“Early in my career it would have been very hard to accept this moment, but I have grown up a little bit on that side.”

Sébastien Ogier, Benjamin Veillas, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Sébastien Ogier, Benjamin Veillas, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

Ogier rejoined Toyota on Tuesday for the first time since Monte Carlo to conduct a pre-event test in Portugal, his first run on gravel in the new GR Yaris.

The Frenchman admitted he was excited to return to a WRC car following an outing in the WEC season opener at Sebring in March.

“I’m quite excited to go in the test now,” he added.

“Maybe in my last two seasons, sometimes going to tests was getting a bit more – not boring but more – annoying, like sometimes I was not super motivated to go even though I was always working hard on these days because I knew they were extremely important for the performance.

“Now I can say I am more motivated to go ahead because it’s [been] a long time and lot of new things to learn again.”

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