Toyota Gazoo Racing says its early experience of working with six-time World Rally Champion Sébastien Ogier is different to what it had expected.
When it became clear Ogier was moving from Citroën to Toyota over the winter, the same questions arose as when he left Volkswagen for M-Sport Ford and M-Sport Ford to take the journey back to Citroën. What’s he like to work with? Has he changed?
To those who formed their opinion on two seasons when the FIA tried to make his life – or the life of the championship leader (largely the same thing…) – difficult by regulating two days of road cleaning on each rally, he was often seen as being quarrelsome and demanding.
And he was. The rules, he felt, were unfair and he wanted parity.
But those on the inside see a different Ogier. Toyota technical director Tom Fowler’s has seen that already.
Asked for his thoughts on working with the current championship leader and Rally México winner, Fowler told DirtFish: “It’s working very well. It’s been a strange start to the season to really get a really clear picture – Monte Carlo was very early in the season, but we worked really well with him for the first round.
“Obviously he pushes very hard which is good, it’s what he needs to do. But he does it in a gentlemanly way.
“It’s been a little bit different to what I expected. You always hear some stories about what people might be like, but when you sit down and work with them it’s a little bit different.
“So far it’s been really good, especially considering the big challenges we’ve had – like Sweden, where nobody knew if it would go ahead or if it would go ahead in anything like the conditions in which we’d tested.
“All of those situations put pressure on people and the people working with him, but I think he and the engineers have handled these extraordinary rallies very well so far. I’d say working with Séb has been different, but different in a positive way.”
Fowler added that Ogier’s experience of working in various teams and bringing the best out of people was obvious.
He said: “To be a winner like he is – people say good guys don’t win – but he has a very good line, he knows how far to go.
“He goes just far enough to make sure everybody is doing what they should do and he’s getting the best out of everybody and the equipment, but when he gets to that line he knows he’s gone far enough.
“Once you cross that line, it becomes a negative situation and you can start to demotivate people and make it more difficult in the future. Working with him [Ogier], it’s a nice way to work, but it’s also a clever way to work.”