The ball is in Toyota and Sébastien Ogier’s court to win this weekend’s Monte Carlo Rally according to the team’s technical director Tom Fowler.
Ogier shares the record for the most Monte Carlo wins with his French contemporary Sébastien Loeb, but with Loeb not returning to defend his 2022 victory Ogier starts this year’s World Rally Championship season opener as the favorite to win.
That’s a billing that Toyota’s Fowler agrees with.
“He’s got to be the favorite,” he told DirtFish.
“I would say the ball’s in his and our court on that topic. We have to make sure everything goes to plan from our side and then also from his side, and if it all goes like it should then you need to be really on your game to beat Ogier.
“I would say to beat Ogier in his frame of mind on that rally in this car, if everything goes OK then fair play to whoever that is.
“But of course there’s a lot of ifs and buts and it’s Monte… many things can happen. But let’s say if it’s a smooth run for him it’s tricky to beat him there.”
Ogier knows to his cost how the Monte can bite back – and not always in the way that’s expected.
After an intense duel with M-Sport’s Loeb, Ogier looked to have last year’s rally won when he built up a 21.1 second lead after Saturday’s final stage which both drivers contested on compromised tires.
But a puncture on the rally’s penultimate stage dropped Ogier to 9.5s in arrears – a gap that he wasn’t able to overhaul. He was nine seconds faster than Loeb on the powerstage so would’ve finished half a second behind overall were it not for a jump-start penalty that meant Loeb’s final margin of victory stood at 10.5s.
“Rally Monte-Carlo is probably the one I want to win the most and I will do my best once more,” Ogier said.
“Preparation has been more difficult as everybody is limited to one day of testing, which is difficult for such a complex event with different conditions and tire options.
“But it’s the same for everybody, and I will try to make the most of my experience.”
The only other past Monte winner starting this year’s event in a Rally1 car is Hyundai driver Thierry Neuville.