Ogier: Seventh title would mean less in shortened 2020 WRC – WRC

by Nov 30, 20200 comments

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Sebastien Ogier says sealing a seventh World Rally Championship title in 2020 would mean less than his previous successes because of the drastically-shortened season.

Ogier trails Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans by 14 points going into this week’s decider at Rally Monza in Italy.

The Frenchman’s previous title successes came between 2013 and 2016 in a Volkswagen Polo, before taking back-to-back crowns when he switched to an M-Sport Ford for the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

His dominance of the series was ended when he rejoined Citroen in 2019 after seven years away, with Ott Tanak prevailing for Toyota before his switch to Hyundai created a vacancy for Ogier.

Each of Ogier’s six titles was earned over the course of a full calendar, but the global COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the cancellation of nine events in 2020, including the returning Safari Rally and classics such as Finland, New Zealand and Great Britain.

Only three events have been held since the pandemic took hold and forced Rally Mexico to be shortened by a day, with efforts to incorporate the Ypres Rally in Belgium onto the WRC calendar abandoned due to rising cases in Belgium.

As a result, the final standings in 2020 are due to be based on just seven rounds, the shortest in the championship’s history. The last time the championship featured fewer than 10 rounds was in 1996, with nine, while eight rounds were held in 1974 and 1995.

“It is a tricky question to answer,” Ogier said, when asked by Autosport if the winner of the 2020 WRC can be considered a valid champion.

“At the end of the day we have all had the same chance to compete in this mini-championship and whoever comes out on top is still going to be the winner of this season.

“How shall you call him [the champion]? They are still a WRC winner.

“But, for sure, if I come out on top after the Monza Rally, I will not put the same value on this title compared to the previous ones.

“But, at the end of the day, we had to deal with a special situation [COVID-19] and I would say ordinarily it is a shame that we did not manage to do a few more events, say eight or nine, because it would help it look more like a championship, but that is another question.”

Ogier has recently agreed a contract extension with Toyota Gazoo Racing that will lead to him ending his career with the squad after next season.

With the luxury of having more time to work alongside engineers during the off-season, Ogier says he is targeting small but significant gains with the Yaris prior to January’s Rally Monte Carlo.

“Generally, I am happy with the Yaris – there’s no big issue or things I want to change completely on this car,” he said.

“This season we have not had the chance to do too many kilometres – only six rallies and some tests so far – so the chance to carry on with the same car for a full, real season is really nice.

“It will give me the chance to be more prepared and to set the car up so that it is better to my liking because, so far, I was lacking [some understanding] and not knowing what to do with the car’s set-up to make it suited to me perfectly.

“But, obviously, it will be a little bit easier for me to do that next year.

“There is no big issue I want to solve. Generally, it is a very good car and, as a team, we are trying to improve.

“I think every aspect of the car is still under work. We fine tune and we improve.”

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