Ogier: Monte Carlo WRC head-to-head with Loeb will be a "pleasure"

Sebastien Ogier says it will be a “pleasure” to have one more battle with long-time World Rally Championship rival Sebastien Loeb at this weekend’s Monte Carlo Rally.

Ogier: Monte Carlo WRC head-to-head with Loeb will be a "pleasure"

The WRC’s two most successful drivers are set to do battle on the famous Monte Carlo asphalt, where they have shared 15 victories between them, for the first time since 2020.

Newly-crowned eight-time champion Ogier is set to contest the event as part of a partial campaign for Toyota, following a decision to scale back his WRC commitments this year.

PLUS: How Ogier emerged out of Loeb's shadow to form his own WRC legend

He'll face off against nine-time champion Loeb, who hasn't contested a WRC event since his last part-time programme with Hyundai in 2020, the 47-year-old agreeing a deal to pilot a fourth M-Sport Ford Puma in Monte Carlo for what is currently a one-off event.

While their WRC careers largely overlapped each other, with Loeb’s last title success coming in 2012 and Ogier’s first in 2013, the pair famously locked horns in 2011 when team-mates at the factory Citroen squad.

Loeb was sixth on his last Monte outing in 2020, when Ogier finished second on his first rally for Toyota behind Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville.

This weekend neither of the drivers will have championship aspirations, which could result in a fascinating battle as the duo both drive new Rally1 hybrid cars for the first time in competition.

Ogier is relishing the prospect of another Monte Carlo Rally against Loeb, admitting it would be “good for the sport,” and bring extra attention on the event.

“I always come to beat everybody including Sebastien of course,” Ogier told Autosport.

Ogier is relishing the prospect of another duel with Loeb

Ogier is relishing the prospect of another duel with Loeb

Photo by: Toyota Racing

“I know this whole rivalry between us again will again be talked about, because the fans like it. It's good to add a bit of extra attention on the rally, it is always good for the sport.

“We respect each other and we have had so many fights in the past already. If we can have one more, it will be a pleasure.”

Heading into the event with a record eight wins, Ogier says this year’s edition “won’t be easy for anyone” as crews adjust to new Rally1 cars that in his opinion are more difficult to drive.

The 38-year-old has had limited test time in the new Toyota GR Yaris, his latest outing coming in a pre-event test in France last week.

“It is hard to know if we are ready or not,” Ogier said.

“You cannot say you are 100% ready and probably nobody is at this point. We have to do the best we can with what we have.

“The car is definitely a bit more difficult to drive in very low grip conditions. But it is hard to tell where we are compared to the others and that is the big question.

“We have seen a decent amount of crashes recently, so I think that is confirming what I’m saying. This car is more difficult drive so I don’t think Monte Carlo will be an easy rally for anybody.

Ogier took his eighth Monte win on the event last year

Ogier took his eighth Monte win on the event last year

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

Ogier admits there is less pressure on his shoulders now no longer in the championship fight, but he still has the desire to perform strongly to help the Toyota team in the manufacturers' title race.

“Of course I’m more relaxed than ever knowing that I’m not doing the championship and it removes a bit of pressure," he added.

“But the wish to perform and do well is there when I start rally.

“I don’t know yet what kind of strategy I’m going to have and it will be linked to how I feel in the car. This is what I have always done in my career and if I feel good I will be able to push, but I think most important thing is to try and find a good feeling.

“Personally I have a bit less pressure in the championship but the team is counting on me as obviously in Monte I have a record so the team is expecting me to deliver some good points. That is what I need to do.”

The WRC season opener in Monte Carlo begins on Thursday with morning shakedown, before two stages in the evening.

shares
comments

Related video

UK misses out on 2022 WRC round as Northern Ireland plans collapse
Previous article

UK misses out on 2022 WRC round as Northern Ireland plans collapse

Next article

WRC 2022: Everything you need to know on the new rules, new cars and more

WRC 2022: Everything you need to know on the new rules, new cars and more
Why Monte Carlo success could spark another past master’s WRC revival Plus

Why Monte Carlo success could spark another past master’s WRC revival

Some 39 years on from his Monte Carlo Rally debut, World Rally Championship legend Francois Delecour continues to pick up silverware. Proving that age is purely a number, the 60-year-old's desire to compete against the WRC’s latest young talents could be the start of a new chapter in the Frenchman’s storied career

WRC
Jan 31, 2023
How fired-up Ogier became the WRC's ultimate Monte master Plus

How fired-up Ogier became the WRC's ultimate Monte master

He may only be contesting a part-time campaign in the World Rally Championship these days, but Sebastien Ogier underlined that he's lost none of his speed in the 2023 season opener. Storming to yet another victory on the Monte Carlo Rally, the eight-time world champion rewrote the history books again as Toyota served notice of its intentions with a crushing 1-2

WRC
Jan 23, 2023
How Lancia pulled off its famous Monte Carlo giantkilling Plus

How Lancia pulled off its famous Monte Carlo giantkilling

Audi should have been invincible in the snowy conditions that typically greeted the World Rally Championship paddock in Monte Carlo. But unexpectedly warm weather for the 1983 season opener, combined with some left-field thinking from the Lancia crew turned the tables. Forty years on, team boss Cesare Fiorio reflects on a smash and grab

WRC
Jan 21, 2023
Why M-Sport has pinned all its efforts on a WRC reunion Plus

Why M-Sport has pinned all its efforts on a WRC reunion

M-Sport had a disastrous 2022 with its Rally1 Ford Pumas following Sebastien Loeb’s first-time-out win on the Monte. But now things are looking up with 2019 world champion Ott Tanak leading its attack, and the Cumbrian operation has optimism that it can challenge for a first title since Sebastien Ogier's departure at the end of 2018

WRC
Jan 19, 2023
The contenders seeking to take Rovanpera's WRC crown Plus

The contenders seeking to take Rovanpera's WRC crown

As Kalle Rovanpera begins his World Rally Championship title defence in Monte Carlo, the Finn knows he has a target on his back. But who is best placed to knock the Toyota ace off his perch?

WRC
Jan 19, 2023
Why Rovanpera is anticipating a fight to defend his WRC title Plus

Why Rovanpera is anticipating a fight to defend his WRC title

Question: what could be harder than becoming the youngest-ever World Rally champion? Answer: becoming the youngest-ever two-time World Rally champion. That's quite the challenge facing Toyota's Kalle Rovanpera in 2022, particularly against rejuvenated opposition in the second year of the WRC's hybrid regulations

WRC
Jan 18, 2023
From F1 to WRC: Why Hyundai's new boss could be an inspired signing Plus

From F1 to WRC: Why Hyundai's new boss could be an inspired signing

OPINION: New Hyundai WRC team boss Cyril Abiteboul admits he’s got a lot to learn as he leads the marque's efforts to dethrone Toyota. But could his Formula 1 experience and evident strengths mean he turns out to be an inspired choice?

WRC
Jan 18, 2023
The ultimate rally car project the WRC is glad COVID killed Plus

The ultimate rally car project the WRC is glad COVID killed

Toyota was unstoppable in the 2021 World Rally Championship, with an excellent 75% strike rate from 12 rallies. But in a scary proposition for its rivals, the Japanese marque had built a car for the final year of the previous regulations set which it believes was much faster and could feasibly have crushed the opposition completely. Here the story of its mothballed world-beater

WRC
Jan 1, 2023