Toyota Gazoo Racing technical director Tom Fowler has shed light on the reasons for Sébastien Ogier’s disastrous Rally Turkey – an event the Frenchman led before retiring with a final day engine failure.
Prior to the engine problem, the six-time World Rally Champion had also dropped time with a significant transmission failure. That failure was caused by a broken magnet.
“The system we use for the gear shift is run by an electric motor,” Fowler told DirtFish. “The magnet is part of that motor and it’s the magnet that failed. It’s shattered. It’s a really small part, like 40mm in diameter and 60mm long – really small. Incredible that it can cause this kind of problem.
“We’ve never seen this failure before and it’s pretty annoying. The magnet is why the problem was coming and going, because there was a piece of magnet in the motor that was getting stuck and it was resetting.
“We think there’s a manufacturing defect with the magnet. We’re analysing it and doing some chemistry with it to see exactly why it shattered, but we think it’s because the part was very, very new. Before Ogier used that motor it had only done the run-in procedure, it was at less than 10% of its life. It was well within its limits and its running limits. That motor was destined to fail from the moment it left the manufacturers.”
Even after that shifting problem, Ogier was still running joint third with Sébastien Loeb and still in with a shot at back-to-back Turkey wins. Even after a puncture on the first Çetibeli stage, he was still on the provisional podium before the engine fired and died on the second run at the rally’s longest stage.
On the engine failure, Fowler added: “The only thing we know at this moment is that cylinder one was not functioning. We had a look inside the engine when the car came back from the stages, we drove the camera around inside [the cylinder] and from this we determined number one is no longer functional.
“Until the engine has been disassembled and some very in-depth study made it’s very difficult to say what damage we see inside is as a result of the engine failing and what actually started it to fail – [the] engine [was] turning very fast at moment of failure, it looks like a complete mess. We don’t know what really happened at the beginning until you really spend some time on it and that’s happening in Cologne at the moment.”
Ogier’s retirement from the event left him with no opportunity to compete for powerstage points, turning a nine-point lead over Elfyn Evans in the World Rally Championship standings into an 18-point deficit to his team-mate with two rounds remaining.