A page in the history of motorsport is turning. By winning at Monza on Sunday November 21, Sébastien Ogier achieved his goal: he won his eighth World Rally Championship (or WRC for « World Rally Championship »).
This success was expected: arrived in Italy with 17 points ahead of his teammate at Toyota, the Welshman Elfyn Evans, he had a comfortable mattress, knowing that a victory brings a maximum of 30 points (25 points for the rally and 5 bonus for the last special, the “Power Stage”).
In the lead with five tenths ahead of his rival after two days of racing, Ogier had only to avoid leaving the road on Sunday during the last three specials to be crowned. Evans finished second in the rally, 7.3 seconds behind the winner. The Belgian Thierry Neuville on Hyundai wins the Power Stage ahead of Ogier. Toyota is a hit as the Japanese team takes the constructor title at the expense of Hyundai.
After a thunderous start to the season, during which he won four of the first six events (Monaco, Croatia, Sardinia, Kenya), the Haut-Alpin – he was born in Gap – was content to manage his lead in the second half of the year, only reaching the podium twice in the last six races.
Monza, theater of the denouement, as in 2020
History is repeating itself since last year at the same time, Sébastien Ogier had already won the title during the last meeting, at Monza, against the same Elfyn Evans. But, if the 2020 edition was disputed behind closed doors due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the public was numerous on Sunday in Monza.
Between 20,000 and 30,000 spectators lined the stands of the famous racing circuit, where Ferrari wrote some of the most beautiful pages in the history of Formula 1. Mixing specials on the circuit itself, and others organized on the mountainous roads around Bergamo, the Monza rally is a very special hybrid event. This year it replaced the rally of Japan, canceled due to a pandemic.
In 2020, at the end of an epic race disputed in the snow, Sébastien Ogier had stolen the title from Elfyn Evans, who nevertheless preceded him by 14 points in the championship standings in the attack of the last round.
Trapped in a bend by a patch of ice hidden under the snow, the Welshman had to give up, leaving the field open to the French. This year, the more favorable weather conditions made the final predictable.
« My priority is my son »
While he will be 38 years old in a few days (December 17), the Gapençais could not have dreamed of a better outing with this eighth title, he who announced that he would only play a few rounds of the championship next year, including the Monte-Carlo rally, his favorite event, where he holds the record for victories (eight, including seven in the WRC). A carefully considered decision.
Before Monza, he confided in the World : “I made my decision a long time ago. I still have the same passion for racing, but my priority is my son Tim, who is five years old. I’d rather spend more time with him than go for another world title. »
Fatherhood has changed even the way he drives. “Unconsciously, we tend to take fewer risks when we have a family. But the accumulated experience has allowed me to remain competitive, thanks to better risk management. In rallying, experience is crucial ”, did he declare.
Another page will also be turned with the retirement of his co-driver, Julien Ingrassia, soon to be 42, who will be replaced next year in the right seat by Benjamin Veillas.
One length behind Sébastien Loeb’s record
Sébastien Ogier will therefore not equal the record of Sébastien Loeb, holder of nine world crowns. But, unlike the Alsatian, who has won all his titles with Citroën, the Haut-Alpin has been world champion with three different teams (four titles at Volkswagen, two with the small private team Ford M-Sport and two with Toyota ), a feat that only the Finnish Juha Kankkunen had accomplished in the 1980s and 1990s with Peugeot, Lancia and Toyota.
Of a discreet nature, fleeing social events, wary of social networks, Sébastien Ogier remains a mystery to many. He will never have the popularity of his elder brother, despite an exceptional record (54 wins in the WRC, against 79 for the Alsatian). Which does not prevent him from sleeping.
“We are constantly opposed, but there is great respect between us. I learned a lot from him, he assures. At the start of my career, some fans did not admit that a youngster could have the ambition to debunk the benchmark in rallying. But, looking back, I think it’s the pride of having had such a long French domination that dominates. «
Coming from a modest background, with a father who was a fuel delivery driver and an accountant mother, Sébastien Ogier practiced other sports (skiing, football, and even Lyon boules) before devoting himself to motor racing. At 22, he revealed himself by winning the Rallye Jeunes selection of the French Motorsport Federation (FFSA).
His progress is dazzling: the title of Junior World Champion on his first attempt in 2008, and already a first point in the WRC, first podium in 2009, first victory in 2010. Citroën made him the teammate of Sébastien Loeb, then at the top, with the idea of securing the constructor title. The clash of egos is inevitable between the prisoner and the young wolf. At the end of the season, the latter slammed the door of the rafters, which granted Sébastien Loeb the status of number one.
Sébastien Ogier will have to wait for the retirement of his mentor to reach the Grail. It is with Volkswagen that he succeeds (four world titles, from 2013 to 2016). Germany adopted him all the more easily as he married Andrea Kaiser, presenter of German television. Since January, he has been living in Munich, after having lived in Switzerland for a long time, especially for tax reasons, which he has always assumed.
Rallies have definitely become a French specialty for two decades. Since 2003, only Estonian Ott Tänak, world champion in 2019, has managed to interrupt the tricolor domination. In other words, 17 of the last 18 world championships have been won by a Frenchman, Loeb or Ogier.
For next season, only the promising Adrien Fourmaux (Ford M-Sport), French junior champion in 2018, seems to have a chance to extend the series. Knowing that the year 2022 promises to be the year of the entry into a new era: in WRC, car engines will now be hybrids. Which will inevitably reshuffle the cards.