Sébastien Ogier says winning this year’s truncated FIA World Rally Championship was as tough as his previous six successes.
Covid-19 cancellations meant the series was cut from 13 to seven rounds but Ogier, who secured his seventh crown in eight seasons at ACI Rally Monza on Sunday, believes the uncertainty surrounding the campaign added to the difficulty.
“No one can say that it’s an easy one to win this year. It’s been maybe only seven [rounds], but a very intense one, very competitive and a very hard fight every time,” Ogier told WRC TV.
“We started normally with three races but then it was so many breaks, so many unknowns, how many rallies would we do and that was difficult to have any strategy actually.”
The Frenchman overcame a 14-point deficit to regain the title he lost in 2019 after Toyota Yaris team-mate and series leader Elfyn Evans crashed down a bank and into a tree on treacherous snow-covered mountain roads on Saturday afternoon.
He sealed the rally win and the title in Sunday’s finale at Monza’s famous Cathedral of Speed circuit but Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia’s celebrations were low-key.
“Of course, I am happy but I don’t jump in the air, it’s not the time for that. I think the whole world is in a difficult situation, a lot of people are suffering at the moment, so I have to be decent, you know. Of course, I enjoy that we’ve done our job pretty well, but I hope that soon we will be able to celebrate more,” Ogier said.
Reflecting on his first season with Toyota Gazoo Racing, Ogier highlighted September’s Rally Turkey and, unsurprisingly, Monza as the season’s key points.
“The first part of the season was pretty close. The low came in Turkey where we had to retire on the last day and lost the lead of the championship, coming out of the event without any points,” he admitted.
“Then the next big turn happened this weekend here in Monza when Elfyn went off the road, and we got back the card in hand that we had to use to the end because it was very, very tricky conditions and never an easy job to finish this rally.”
After initially planning to leave the WRC at the end of 2020, Ogier last month committed to another year with the Japanese manufacturer, with whom he quickly found his feet after joining at the start of the year from Citroën.
“We’re privileged to have the chance to work with a different team, a very strong team. It was the start of a new adventure this year and I think we knew coming to Toyota we would have a good car in the end and a good team around us,” he explained.
“The main target was to try to adapt as quick as possible to this car. It wasn’t the easiest part of it, not that the car is difficult to drive. It’s actually an easy car I would say to feel, but because we had so little amount of races and testing, it was not that easy to be sure on every event how to set the car perfectly to my liking.
“I’m very happy with the job we have done with Julien this year. On the seven races we have not done a real driver mistake. The only rally we didn’t finish was a technical issue but otherwise the car has been performing perfectly.”