Last weekend the reigning World Rally Champion Sébastien Ogier confirmed to be entering the Rally de Portugal which will be his second round of the season as part of his part-time rally program with Toyota Gazoo Racing.
Speaking to media at a news conference ahead of the rally, Ogier is hoping to set up another battle against his rivalry compariot, the nine-time champion Sébastien Loeb, who will also be returning to WRC after his win at the season-opener at Rallye Monte-Carlo in January with M-Sport Ford World Rally Team, but, Ogier is optimistic that the legends will dominate the event.
Loeb and Ogier were creating headlines in Monte-Carlo as they were battling for the win in the French Alps, with Loeb taking the win as Ogier picked up a costly puncture on the penultimate stage of the rally, and now both of them are having eight wins each at Monte-Carlo.
However at Rally de Portugal, which will be the first proper gravel rally for the new Rally1 hybrid era cars and will be a different challenge compared to January’s season-opener. Ogier has the most wins in Portugal which is five times, that includes his maiden WRC win back in 2010 meanwhile Loeb has won two times in 2007 and 2009.
Ogier has scaled back his WRC commitments this season and will not defend his eighth title in the championship, this has allowed him to move into a new discipline in forms of circuit racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship, where he is doing a full-season in the LMP2 for Richard Mille Racing, and will be racing at Spa-Francorchamps this weekend.
“Of course I’m happy I always enjoy battling with him, we had a couple of nice fights during our career and it is nice to see that the fans are excited about it. I knew there was a good chance he was coming to this event so I was teasing him a bit online to try to get him to announce it.” Ogier said.
“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] 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.”
The round five of the FIA World Rally Championship at Rally de Portugal will be held on 19-22 May.