Hot on the heels of his stunning win in the Race of Champions, Motor Sport caught up with French rising star Sébastien Ogier in Germany and talked to him about his surprise switch to World Rally Championship newcomer Volkswagen from the mighty Citroën squad.
Ogier famously clashed with eight-time World Champion team-mate Sébastien Loeb at Citroën last season as both sought to gain the upper hand at the dominant French team. So news of Ogier’s departure at the end of the year was not wholly unexpected.
“It was an easy decision to make in the end,” said Ogier, sporting his new VW overalls for the first time. “I had the opportunity to join the team and start with a clean sheet of paper developing the Polo.
“There are plenty of very experienced people at VW who I’m looking forward to working with, and together we can start to fight to get the Polo ready as soon as possible.”
Over the weekend in Düsseldorf, Ogier treated the crowd to a few demo runs in his new rally car, but was quick to point out that this was just a show car and that the WRC version would only be ready once an intensive test programme of 20 weeks during 2012 is complete. With this and a full programme of WRC events in a Super 2000 Škoda Fabia to contend with, Ogier is prepared for a busy year.
“It’s OK,” he shrugged. “When I was at Citroën I helped develop the new car more than Loeb…” A suggestion, we’re sure, that will be met with a raised Gallic eyebrow or two over at his previous employer. The new VW team leader clearly doesn’t shy away from a challenge but maintains that he left Citroën with a heavy heart and described how he had a very good relationship with the mechanics, engineers, team personnel and management. Interestingly, there was no mention of his ex-team-mate…
“It’s important to continue to race,” added Ogier. “Next year is a learning year and maybe we can pick up points in some events [in the Fabia] and hopefully be fighting for the podium by the end of the season.”
With a driver who some think is the natural pretender to Loeb’s crown and the mighty resources of a full factory VW effort behind him, who would bet against an Ogier/Polo tilt at the WRC title in 2013?