Sébastien Ogier couldn’t stick to that wrong tone. Shortly after the end of what had been a very tricky Rally Portugal for the Frenchman, Toyota announced that its driver would be back at the Rally Kenya, which has to take place in a month’s time, last weekend at the end of June.
The eight-time World Champion and current WRC titleholder is taking part in a rally sub-program this year, leading a WEC (World Endurance Championship) commitment in the LMP2 category for Team Richard Mille Racing.
As a result, the Gapençais will not take part in the next WRC round in Sardinia in two weeks time as the event collides with the 24 Hours of Le Mans testing day. Esapekka Lappi takes over the wheel of the Japanese manufacturer’s third GR Yaris on the Italian island.
The Kenya Rally is the third round in which Ogier takes part in the World Rally Championship this season. The Toyota driver clinched victory there last year as the African event returned to the calendar after a 19-year absence.
A road trip through deconcentration
After losing to Sébastien Loeb on the opening lap at Monte-Carlo due to a puncture on the penultimate stage, Ogier suffered much more this weekend in Portugal, being overwhelmed by two punctures on as many stages on Friday afternoon before going off the road the next day he lost about twenty minutes.
An error he is not used to, which can be explained by a lack of concentration after a warning light came on due to a problem with the hybrid system of his Toyota: “We lost the hybrid a hundred meters before our accident”the Frenchman explained Motorsport.com. “That was my fault. I was looking at the dashboard, distracted and not paying enough attention to the gauges [données par son copilote, Benjamin Veillas, ndlr] over the next bend. I went in a bit too fast and hit an embankment. I found myself slowed down without the car taking too much damage.”
Despite the blows of fate, Portugal will have been a suitable launch pad for the Kenya Rally for Ogier
Portugal, an ideal preparation for Kenya
However, not everything can be thrown away at this rally in Portugal, as evidenced by the scratch Ogier scored on SS5, right where his compatriot Sébastien Loeb was pinched in the first corner and also had to retire. This is the first time since Rally Australia 2011 that the two French drivers have retired from the same event.
However, this fourth round, held on gravel for the first time this season, allowed Ogier to get a better idea of the Toyota’s behavior on this surface. So many lessons that he can reuse right now in Kenya: “The experience we’ve had with this car is positive, especially on gravel”he continues. “I have never driven this car alone on this surface as I was not involved in its development last year. So I lacked a bit of experience and understanding of the machine, but putting aside all the issues I encountered this weekend, I ended up feeling better behind the wheel than when I started.”
“We all know that Kenya is a unique rally with its own characteristics, but it remains a gravel rally. We had very difficult conditions this weekend which particularly affected my tires but it remains a good preparation , that nobody knows can really test for this rally [au Kenya]. I hope things go better there.” It’s all the harm we wish him.
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