Volkswagen works driver Sébastien Ogier (F) made a little bit of motorsport history at the Rally Sweden three weeks ago. The Frenchman, with co-driver Julien Ingrassia at his side, claimed Volkswagen’s first victory in the FIA World Rally Championship with the Polo R WRC. In an interview, the World Championship leader looks back at that triumph and forward to the challenges ahead.
Success in Sweden not only secured your place in the rally history books, but also presented Volkswagen with its first WRC victory with the Polo. A few weeks down the line, what was the best moment?
“When Julien and I returned to the Service Park after the Power Stage on Sunday, and the entire team greeted us with a round of applause. Everyone was so pleased. Just seeing all those happy faces made it worth all the hard work we have put in over the past few months. It was the perfect rally! The Polo R WRC was outstanding, even better than at the ‘Monte’. I have never had such a good car in Sweden.”
Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito set the team’s targets prior to the start of the season: podium in the first year, victory in the second, and then the World Championship title. Now you already have a victory under your belt after just two rallies. Will you now change the way you approach the rest of the season?
“On the contrary – I will approach all the rallies with the same fighting spirit. We are obviously more than happy with the way the season has started. However, Monte Carlo and Sweden are unique rallies, which cannot be compared with other rounds of the World Championship. We will have to wait and see how we fair on gravel, as that is the surface, on which most of the WRC rallies are staged. We still have a long way to go. However, we can now relax a little, as we already have valuable World Championship points. As such, the other teams are now under more pressure than we are.”
Many people now see Volkswagen and you as favourites for the title …
“We have only completed two of the 13 rounds of the World Championship. We still don’t really know how good we are, or how competitive the Polo R WRC is on gravel. Maybe we will rethink our goals for the season after Portugal or Argentina. One thing is certain, however: if we are still in with a chance at the end of the season, we will fight all the way.”
Do you expect the Polo R WRC to be as competitive on the gravel of Mexico as it was on ice and snow?
“That is hard to say. In Mexico we will be driving on quite rough gravel routes, and at an extremely high altitude. The air is thin at over 2,500 metres above sea level. We drivers feel that, and so do the engines. At its worst, everyone here has almost a third less performance than under normal conditions.”
What are your expectations for the Rally Mexico?
“I really like the atmosphere there. The weather is always good and the special stages are lined with a lot of fans. The start in Guanajuato, in particular, is a fantastic experience. Down narrow lanes, through tunnels, and past thousands of fans cheering you on frenetically – that is pure goose bumps! For me personally, it is always very special to line up in Mexico. It was there that I drove my very first rally in the World Championship back in 2008 – and I promptly won my first race in the Junior WRC class. That was like a dream back then. As such, I am always happy to travel to Mexico to race there.”
The rally’s longest special stage is scheduled for Sunday: the 55-kilometre “Guanajuatito” stage. How are you preparing for that challenge?
“That is not the only one. In Mexico, we have to complete seven special stages that are over 30 kilometres long. That means we must be top fit, in order to stay 100 per cent focussed at all times from Thursday through to Sunday. That is why I slotted in some extra fitness sessions with my trainer after the Rally Sweden, in order to be as well prepared as possible. I have also flown to Mexico a few days early, in order to get used to the time difference – and to catch a bit of sun on the beach at Cancún.”