Why Citroen’s loss is Volkswagen’s gain
Ogier is VW’s first signing
Even after completing what would be his final world championship rally with Citroen, Sebastien Ogier insisted his future lay with the firm. "I have still two years on my contract, there is nothing more to say," he insisted at the finish of Wales Rally GB.
But three days later Citroen announced Ogier was out and Mikko Hirvonen would be partnering Sebastien Loeb in its factory effort from 2012, having conceded defeat in its efforts to accommodate two truly world class performers in the same team.
It wasn’t an easy split, as Citroen team chief Olivier Quesnel would admit at the announcement in Paris, having nurtured Ogier from Junior champion to world title challenger in the space of four seasons, but inevitable given the rift within the squad.
Nevertheless, Citroen’s loss is very much Volkswagen’s gain as it prepares for what could be the post-Loeb era in 2013 - assuming the eight-time world champion quits at the end of next season - with one of the sport’s best drivers in its line-up.
Ogier first emerged as a global star when he won the Junior World Rally Championship in 2008 at the wheel of a Citroen C2 Super 1600. After leading Wales Rally GB on his maiden outing in a C4 World Rally Car, he joined the Citroen Junior Team for the WRC proper in 2009. Following a tough start to his campaign, a podium finish in Greece got his season back on track.
Remaining with Citroen’s second string for 2010, he won his first world championship rally in Portugal of that year and triumphed again in Japan having been promoted to the main factory squad for the season-closing gravel events in place of the underperforming Dani Sordo.
He started the 2011 season as joint number one with Loeb at Citroen. After crashing out of the lead in Mexico he won in Portugal and Jordan and should have made it a hat trick of wins in Argentina only to roll on the final morning of the event. He scored a third victory in Greece but that success led to an internal rift within Citroen with Loeb convinced team management was favouring their young star.
There were more cracks in an increasingly strained relationship when Ogier responded to news that Loeb had suffered a puncture on ADAC Rallye Deutschland, which ultimately handed him victory on the event, by saying: “sometimes there is justice in the sport.”
Ogier won again in France when Loeb suffered an engine failure to move firmly into title contention. But an engine failure of his own in Spain wrecked his bid and his final appearance for Citroen in Wales earlier this month lacked the usual potency the WRC has come accustomed to.
Signing for Volkswagen a full season before its Polo R WRC makes its debut will rule Ogier out of frontline competition for 12 months but it’s unlikely to affect his pace. “We’re looking forward to a team with a fighting spirit and the determination to win. Anything’s possible,” says co-driver Julien Ingrassia.
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