Ahead of second clash with Sebastien Loeb in both their WRC part-seasons, Sebastien Ogier hopes for duel but doesn’t think it will be for win
The Rally Portugal, which is on the calendar from 19-22 May as the fourth stop of the 2022 World Rally Championship (WRC) season, will see Sebastien Loeb and Sebastien Ogier go head-to-head for the second time this year
Nine-time World Rally Champion Loeb will be driving his second rally for M-Sport-Ford after winning the season opener, the Rally Monte Carlo. Eight-time World Rally Champion Ogier, who is also only on a part-time programme this year, is driving for Toyota.
The first meeting of the two rally greats this year was narrowly won by Loeb in the “Monte” after Ogier was unlucky to suffer a puncture on the last stage. But at least Ogier does not believe that the two Sebastiens will dominate in Portugal as well.
Ogier and Loeb have seven wins in Portugal between them, with Ogier leading 5:2: But: this time, Rally Portugal is the first gravel rally for the entire WRC field with the Rally1 cars introduced for 2022. Apart from a few test drives, neither Toyota, nor M-Sport-Ford, nor Hyundai have much experience with their current cars on loose surfaces.
“I really hope that we will both be able to fight at the front. But the set-up and parameters are different for this rally. That’s why I don’t expect us to dominate like we did in the ‘Monte’ and fight our duel in front of the field again,” said Ogier.
But Ogier is certainly hoping for another direct duel with Loeb at the Rally Portugal: “I hope that he will be in the fight for the top and that it will be an exciting rally. Dani [Sordo] is also driving. So there are a few drivers of the older generation in the mix,” grins Ogier. Like Ogier, Sordo is 38 years old. Loeb, however, is ten years older.
Does Ogier still think back to his narrow defeat in the season opener before the next encounter with Loeb? “Everyone knows that the ‘Monte’ is the rally I prefer to win,” says the Frenchman from nearby Gap, who admits: “Losing like that [with a puncture while leading] was obviously disappointing. I had done everything right but lost because something happened that was out of my control.”
“On the other hand,” Ogier continued, “it was a strong performance from him. [Loeb] deserved to win. That’s just the way it goes. To win, sometimes you need a bit of luck. I think at the beginning of my career it would have been very difficult to accept that. But now I’m a bit more mature about it.”
Incidentally, Ogier himself was not yet involved in the first gravel tests of the Rally1 version of the Toyota Yaris. He will complete his first gravel test with this car today, Tuesday, precisely in Portugal, where WRC points, and not least honour, will be at stake in a good two weeks.
Loeb has also only driven the Ford Puma Rally1 on asphalt and snow so far. At the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022, he completed two tests, but not on gravel.