How Ogier’s part-timer status has reinvigorated his motivation

The reigning champion will make his WRC return on Rally Portugal with a somewhat different frame of mind


Rarely in the last decade and a half has eight-time World Rally champion Sébastien Ogier taken over three months away from rallying. Even the off-season break between the 2021 season finale at Monza and the season-opening Monte Carlo Rally this January wasn’t so long.

But Ogier’s situation is nothing like the past. His main racing program is the World Endurance Championship, which includes the jewel-in-the-crown Le Mans 24 Hours endurance race. It’s been the cleanest of breaks from rallying he’s had in a very long time.

That makes a difference.

Sebastien Ogier (FRA)
There will always be a question mark coming to yourself: will I still be as sharp as I was? Sébastien Ogier on returning to the WRC after two rounds away

Tomorrow Ogier drives a Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 on gravel for the first time, conducting his single day of pre-event testing for Rally Portugal. In the recent past, pre-event tests were something of a begrudging necessity for the reigning champion.

Not anymore. That shift to part-timer status has refreshed his motivation.

“Maybe in my last two seasons, sometimes going to tests was getting a bit more – not boring but more – annoying, even if I was super motivated before,” said Ogier. “Even though I was always working hard on these days, I knew they were extremely important for the performance.

“I was not always super motivated to be there. Now I can say I am more motivated to go ahead because it’s [been] a long time and lot of new things to learn again.”


It’s been a long wait for Ogier between rallies but, as the man himself is quick to point out, even the full-timers had a very long wait between Sweden and Croatia. And there are other factors at play that mean the time away from the driving seat of a GR Yaris isn’t a huge setback to his preparation.

“It’s true, it feels like quite a long time now [since Monte]. But on the other hand, it’s a problem for [the] current drivers,” he added.

“It’s been quite calm as well in the first part of the season, they’ve done only two races and this big gap.

“It’s still also the first gravel event, so in that sense I hope to not be too much behind in the way that we are discovering new situations.

“But for sure, there will always be a question mark coming to yourself: will I still be as sharp as I was?”


Spending the last few months concentrating on his sportscar program has also confirmed one of Ogier’s suspicions: he’ll never be able to replace rallying with something that feels quite the same.

He’s not the only one: Sébastien Loeb simply couldn’t stay away for that exact reason. It was impossible to replicate the thrill of rallying anywhere else.

So it has transpired to be for the younger Séb too.

“I know that this kind of feeling, the adrenaline, you cannot really get anywhere else,” he said.


“Of course I have this new challenge now in endurance and I really appreciate driving the car; it’s a good experience and something new to learn.

“But like I was expecting, there is nothing close to rally. Rally is really what brings me the most extreme feeling behind the steering wheel.”