Sebastien Ogier closed the chapter on his full-time rallying career with an eighth world championship title in 2021. It leaves him one behind the record of nine achieved by his former team-mate and rival Sebastien Loeb, but with Ogier claiming his titles with three different teams, the debate will go on as to which Frenchman is truly the greatest. But there can be absolutely no doubt that Ogier has been one of the most formidable competitors rallying has ever seen.
Ogier was born in the town of Gap in the French Alps, and as a youngster he watched the Monte Carlo Rally pass by on local roads. For a €20 fee, he entered the French motorsport federation’s ‘Rallye Jeunes’ program to detect potential champions of the future. It turned out to be a worthwhile investment: Ogier won a drive in the national Peugeot 206 Cup, which he and co-driver Julien Ingrassia won in their second season in 2007.
The pair’s next rally the following March took place 10,000 kilometres away in Mexico, as they embarked on the Junior World Rally Championship with Citroen. Driving a two-wheel drive C2 fitted with Pirelli tyres on some of the roughest gravel roads in rallying, Ogier finished eighth overall and took the first of three class wins on his way to winning the JWRC title. At the end of the year, he was handed the keys to Citroen’s C4 World Rally Car on Rally GB – again on Pirelli tyres – and incredibly won his very first stage in the notoriously slippery Welsh conditions. A star had been born.
Soon, Ogier was promoted to Citroen factory team and was a constant thorn in the side of his new team-mate Loeb, winning five times in 2011 and challenging for the championship. With Loeb enjoying the equivalent of protected status from his bosses, Ogier upped sticks and signed up to lead Volkswagen’s new entry from 2013 onwards. Developing the German team and its Polo WRC around him, Ogier was dominant over the next four seasons, winning back-to-back titles and 31 out of 51 rallies.
VW then suddenly withdrew on the eve of a new era of technical regulations being introduced for 2017, forcing Ogier into an unlikely marriage with Malcolm Wilson’s independent M-Sport team. It worked: Ogier was champion again in 2017 and 2018 in the Ford Fiesta WRC. With increased competition from Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville and Toyota’s Ott Tanak, the battle had gone right down to the final round in 2018, and Ogier gambled on a reunion with Citroen for 2019. But he didn’t get the support he had banked on to develop the difficult C3 WRC and was dethroned, finishing behind both Tanak and Neuville in the standings.
Ogier wasn’t down for long. For 2020 he grabbed the opportunity to replace Tanak at Toyota and get his hands on the impressive Yaris WRC. He had the car to regain his crown, but no special favours within the team, and managed to overhaul his team-mate Elfyn Evans in the final round of a pandemic-shortened season.
In 2021, as Pirelli returned as exclusive WRC supplier for the first time since 2010, Ogier began the year in some of his best ever form, starting it with a record eighth Monte Carlo win and four wins in the first six events. Thereafter, he concentrated mainly on securing another title, which actually let a resurgent Evans take the fight down to the final round once again. At Monza, Ogier made sure he not only held off Evans to win his eighth title but also defeated him in an epic battle for the rally win.
It was the perfect style in which to end his time as a full-time WRC competitor, and to bid farewell to the retiring Ingrassia. Ogier’s unbreakable love for rallying means he’ll be on the start-line in Monte Carlo in January 2022 behind the wheel of Toyota’s new GR Yaris Rally1 car as the WRC enters a new hybrid era, with plans for a part-time schedule. But he shows no sign of truly slowing down, with a desire to pursue opportunities in circuit racing.
Ogier tested a Red Bull Formula 1 car in 2017, and has made competitive outings in DTM and GT races over previous years. He’s also taken part in the Porsche Carrera Cup race, supporting the Monaco Grand Prix. The Frenchman’s ties to Toyota meant he recently tested the Japanese marque’s World Endurance Championship hypercar, with dreams of racing the car at Le Mans in the future. If he does, he’ll hope to go one better than Loeb, who finished second in the famous 24-hour race in 2006.
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