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GP Week : Issue 131
me was very difficult to see how tricky it was and I drove and took maybe too much risk ... but I didn’t feel it.” The 2009 season started with a big and welcome surprise, a win for Ogier on the IRC Monte Carlo Rally in a one-off drive in a Peugeot 207 S2000, but the ensuing WRC season driving a World Rally Car in the Citroen Junior team came with a lot of challenges. “ The first half of the season was difficult. We had done a lot of mistakes but that was also a bit normal. I think it was a big change between the C2 (S1600) and the C4 (WRC). The speed was really different and without experience of the rally it was very difficult for us, maybe we don’t want to take the time to learn and I wanted immediately to try to prove my speed.” One of the unaccustomed pressures was that Ogier’s programme in 2009 was being decided event-by-event. It created an unwelcome and unhelpful pressure to impress immediately. Only in mid-season did Citroen policy change and he was given assurances of competing in the full season: “Maybe it was not the best way to progress, but gradually we started to find more consistency and got some results. In Greece we finished with a podium so after that it was more easy because we had less pressure.” Then came 2010 and a place alongside Sebastien Loeb in the official Citroen Total team. It was a three year agreement and, in 2011, came the magic assurance that with a new car, and a new start, the two Sebs were equal number one drivers: “It was like the top of the world, it was good because it now meant that I am driving for the best team in rally and I now had all the cards in my hand to do good things. It was good news for me, for sure. To be a teammate with Seb was also a good thing, even if everybody knows that it is difficult to be his team-mate because you are immediately being critically compared. “It is also good experience when you are young because you can learn a lot from him, from his feeling during tests, from everything you can have with the team. He taught me a lot of small things. I can’t explain it exactly but it is just living close to him and to see what he is doing during tests, what he is talking about with his engineer after recce, after rally. To compare my feeling with his feeling!” Why is Loeb so special? “For sure we can see that he is always very calm and is able to get the maximum of each situation. Even if it is a bad day he is able to forget the problem and give his best with that.” What has been your best memories? Your first WRC win, in Portugal in 2010? “Of course it is one of the best moments when you get your first world championship victory – it is special because it was with a straight fight against Seb. It was a real victory where we had to push from the start to the end of the rally and it was a big satisfaction. But all my season in 2010 was a good memory for me, maybe not at the end of the season because we made some stupid mistakes, but especially the moment when we signed for three years with the team was good.” And the announcement that Sebastien Loeb would continue – what do you think about that. Did you expect it? “No and I had absolutely no prior information. So I learned it the day before everyone else. I don’t think even he knew a few weeks ago. “In one way it is good news because it’s nice to work in the team with Seb and Daniel. We have been friends together. But in another way it is difficult to fight against Seb in the championship so that means he will still be there next year and still be the man for me to beat. It will be difficult but in one way it is good because if we achieve a world title against him it will be even better. To be honest I would prefer to win the world championship on one occasion against him than win three titles without him.” Saint or sinner? The reality check came in Germany. Ogier scored his sixth world rally win and the circumstances created a trail of emotional and political destruction in the team. Was Ogier the instigator or the victim of circumstance? Did Citroen Racing management handle the situation well? Did the equal-number-one status lead to misunderstandings? Did it mean that Loeb was being politically downgraded or was Loeb always the preferred member of the team? Did it mean that Ogier should follow the example of his team predecessor, Dani Sordo, and meekly follow the master everywhere the team went? Ogier had to work out for himself whether equal number one status really meant it, as he assumed ... there would be no team orders? He is now in uncharted territory. Ogier knows that you cannot progress unless you always try to win. And of course just to muddy the waters most of all Loeb announced he was also going to stay in the team until the end of 2013. And it didn’t help when Loeb suggested that Ogier has no respect for the Citroen team if he even thought about moving elsewhere. Not easy days in the car which carries competition number 2. Some things in rallying are even harder than driving the best car in the sport. 50