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Cars Opinion: Ogier-Citroen split suggests big drama for next season

08:47  12 december  2019
08:47  12 december  2019 Source:   autocar.co.uk

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With Ogier leaving Citroën and the French manufacturer leaving the WRC shortly after him, we look forward to an intriguing 2020. Back to all opinion blogs. Currently reading: Ogier - Citroen split suggests big drama for next Ogier won three rounds of the WRC in the C3 this season .

Sebastien Ogier says he can see potential with the Citroen C3 WRC after his first two days testing the car he will drive in next year’s World Rally Championship.

a person driving a race car on a dirt track: Ogier won three rounds of the WRC in the C3 this season © Autocar Ogier won three rounds of the WRC in the C3 this season Sebastien Ogier talking on a cell phone: Ogier left his Citroën contract early. Then Citroën quit the WRC © Autocar Ogier left his Citroën contract early. Then Citroën quit the WRC

Back in 2016, when Volkswagen dramatically quit the World Rally Championship (a precursor to quitting the world of combustion-engined motorsport entirely, as it turns out) Sébastien Ogier tested all the World Rally Cars available to him as he worked out where to go for the following season.

As the undefeated world champion since 2013, the Frenchman could pretty much take his pick. In the end, he plumped for M-Sport and Ford, where he went on to win the driver’s titles in 2017 and 2018. Although he diplomatically didn’t deliver an official verdict on the other cars, he felt that the prototype Toyota Yaris WRC that he tried in Spain – yet to make its absolute debut on the WRC – was still a bit too unknown to be worthy of serious consideration.

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Ogier - Citroen split suggests big drama for next season . New WRC rules still on track.

Sebastien Ogier will begin testing his Citroen C3 WRC for the 2019 World Rally Championship in Portugal next week. The 2018 world champion confirmed he will drive the C3 for four days before the end of the year, with the first two coming through development running in the Algarve.

Three years later, the situation is very different. Ogier has chosen to end his Citroën contract early and – if Citroën is to be believed – this decision then led to the manufacturer terminating its programme entirely, according to an extraordinarily bitter press release that laid the blame firmly at the six-time world champion’s door.

Ogier probably would have stayed, had an unexpected opportunity not presented itself at Toyota after its own world champion, Ott Tänak, decided to leave for Hyundai.

Sebastien Ogier talking on a cell phone © Provided by Autocar

Ogier’s situation is a fascinating one, because he has always said that 2020 would be his last season. So he has just one year and 14 rallies to claim a seventh title, in an unfamiliar car that could make it three different manufacturers with which he has won the driver’s championship. If he succeeds, it’s a record he would share with Juha Kankkunen.

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Sebastien Ogier says he can see potential with the Citroen C3 WRC after his first two days testing the car he will drive in next year's World Rally Championship.

Defending WRC champion Sebastien Ogier has urged Citroen to find consistency as he begins the “For the season , the strategy is to be consistent. Everybody should have this target if they want to play a Additional reporting by Colin Clark. Sebastien Ogier , C3 WRC, Citroën RacingMotorsport.com.

In the end, it was the lack of ongoing development at Citroën that prompted Ogier to move. Team principal Pierre Budar and Citroën management take a predictably different view, claiming that Ogier would have been in a position to win the title with them in 2020 had he stayed.

Ogier actually won three rallies with the C3 this year, a total bettered only by eventual champion Tänak, so maybe Budar has a point. We might get a clue if the C3 is fielded as a successful private entry next year.

But Ogier will be in a Toyota and his task will be much more straightforward, right?

It’s worth remembering, though, that the Yaris WRC has been honed on the flatout roads of Finland from its earliest days, developed by archetypally Scandinavian heroes used to taking a car by the scruff of its neck and flinging it into corners, relying on talent and horsepower to sort out any ensuing mess. Nobody more than current Toyota team boss Tommi Mäkinen typifies this mesmerising, uncompromising approach.

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Sébastien Ogier onboard from Rally de Portugal 2014. Stage win and rally win. Ogier wins WRC Portugal 2014, beating Mikko Hirvonen by 43 seconds and giving him a bigger lead over Jari-Matti Latvala in the championship. Rally de Portugal was the 4th round of the 2014 WRC season .

Opinion : Ogier - Citroen split suggests big drama for next season . Citroen withdraws from WRC, blames Ogier split . Citroen Racing pulls out of the World Rally Championship after Sebastian Ogier left the team “without a first-class driver available” Citroen Racing has pulled out of the World Rally

Up to now, the Yaris WRC has been driven exclusively by Nordics, the only exceptions being the UK’s Kris Meeke and Japan’s Takamoto Katsuta – both of whom, in the best possible way, are sufficiently bonkers to earn an honorary Finnish passport.

How will the Yaris get on with Ogier’s entirely different, silky smooth European style? That’s going to be one of the most fascinating questions of 2020.

Anthony Peacock

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