“I’m still excited” – How Ogier’s prepared for a different Monte

There's "more to manage" with the car and driving approach in a Rally1, and Ogier is learning fast


The mysterious livery weaves from one side of the road to the other with increasing levels of energy. A burst of acceleration is followed by a violent attack on the brakes. The curious concoction of red, grey, black and white pitches and dives. But not much.

Toyota’s Yaris Rally1 is indeed in Tarmac specification. But it’s Monte Tarmac: a touch softer, a tad more compliant. It’s a racer with something in reserve.

The same can’t be said for the man behind the wheel. Sébastien Ogier offers the true meaning of a racer and a man who leaves nothing in reserve.

Cresting a hill, Ogier raises his hand from the wheel in an attempt to shield his eyes from the bright morning sunshine. As shadow drops back to cast the asphalt into a darker shade of grey, Ogier ups the ante.

Stage mode and three gears. Bang. Bang. Bang.


Like the World Rally Cars that have now bowed out, the response is as immediate as it is aggressive and purposeful. A caged animal has been woken from its mid-morning slumber.

This is Roquestéron, in the heart of the Alpes Maritimes. The heart of a classic Monte route. South of Puget-Théniers, east of the mountain-bound Route Napoléon, the sun is shining on a glorious winter weekend.

Ogier’s arrival behind the wheel of a next-gen Yaris is overdue. He doesn’t mind too much. Don’t forget, soon after securing that eighth title in Monza last month, Gap’s most famous export admitted he wished he wasn’t doing the Monte Carlo Rally.

He’s supposed to be about family time now. But Monte following Monza means more seat time and back to work in the lead up to Christmas.

A couple of runs done and Ogier is straight into the engineering area to debrief on his first ever findings in the hybrid era.



The very first thoughts from the man with the target on his back for round one of 2022

The test is typically intense as a new set of technical regulations sit square on the horizon. Much as we are sat surrounded by snowy mountains in December, this weekend of running is still more development than pre-event set-up.

One thing that is typical of Monte prep is running into the dark. As the mechanics bolt a set of daylight-reviving lamps to the front of the Yaris, there’s that extra edge of atmosphere and ambiance. The roadside fires are well and truly on the go now and there’s a whiff of mulled wine in the air.

All is very much well with the world right now.

And well with Ogier by the time he’s done for the day. He’s smiling.

But don’t be fooled, Ogier’s not the sort of driver who searches for the tone of voice on these things. There’s work to be done to make these cars as good as they can be.


“It’s the same, like the last generation,” he reasons. “Remember when the 2017 cars came? The 2021 cars were faster.”

Evolution is part of the process. Hybrid does, however, bring an element of revolution to the evolution.

“We have to be honest, at the moment it’s a step back in term of performance,” he adds.

“The cars are slower, they are heavier and the regulation makes quite more limitations in many ways. The step at the moment is backwards, but for me, the most important thing is that as long as everybody is racing the same material it will make exciting competition.”

As ever, Ogier’s appraisal is honest, but optimistic.

“I’m confident the cars will progress quickly. Like I said, when the old generation cars came, they weren’t as fast as last year and I really believe the process is going to be the same this time.”

Ogier 2022


Ogier says reliability will be a big challenge for teams

There’s no getting away from this being the biggest technical change since the arrival of World Rally Cars in 1997. The inclusion of hybrid isn’t just a curve ball for the World Rally Championship, it’s a curve ball thrown from the other side of a square corner which sits in the trees beyond a blind crest.

“Reliability will play a bigger role in the early part of the season,” says Ogier. “We can see big progress being made with every test, but it’s possible compared to the last seasons it can play a bigger role.

“Having said that, I’m confident the team is going to work hard and succeed in evolving this car both in terms of performance and reliability. It’s going to be exciting to follow the progress and see how it’s improving.

“But, you have to be honest going to Monte Carlo there is a huge question mark for everybody and more uncertainty than ever going into this rally.”

And it’s not just the cars themselves, it’s driving them. Ogier accepts the next generation could necessitate a change in approach to get the best out of them.


“When the boost is there, it’s definitely fun, but it’s also true that the power isn’t there all of the time and generally we are slower than we have been in the last years. The interesting challenge is to adapt and progress as fast as you can – and faster than the others.

“It’s not that simple to regen and deploy the power – you need to be on the brake for a certain [amount of] time to generate some energy and activate the boost for the next acceleration. It will influence your driving style; if you are able to activate it or not it will make a difference on the next acceleration.

“There are more parameters with these cars, things are not quite so straightforward. There will be a bit more reflection into the driving style to make it more efficient. Mentally, there will be a bit more to manage in the car than the last years. But I’m confident everybody can adapt quickly.”

And Ogier has certainly adapted quickly – even to a car which is technically far from the World Rally Car he’s used to win four titles in five years with two manufacturers.

Ogier test


Technical director Tom Fowler explains the wild good chase Toyota set up

Beyond hybrid, it’s back-limited suspension travel, five forward ratios rather than six and a stick rather than a paddle to select them. But Ogier’s better than all of that. He’s got the experience and the ability to get in a car and drive it as fast as anybody in the mountains high above his home town.

But is the desire as strong? In many ways, how can it be. For now, Monte’s something of a one-off.

There’s plenty of hypothesis about where we’ll see him next, but nothing set in stone. Without the potential for gathering the momentum of a title challenge, can a fight for a ninth Monte win be as fierce?

“I’m at a different time in my career now and, of course, being part of the program is still exciting – I’m still excited to be going into Monte Carlo Rally. I’m a competitor and I want to win. I will do my best to perform in Monte, but not taking part in the championship make me think a little bit different at the moment.

“Like I said, the cars are a little bit different and we will have to think more to them.


“It is many years since I drove without the gear stick, what do you call it? The gear lever. I had on my first run a couple of tries when I went for the paddle and nothing happened – but the feeling [for the gear lever] has come back very quickly.”

Two days done and Ogier’s mood is great. He’s positive, quick, in command and more upbeat about round one than he was post-Monza. If that’s what a month off does for the champ, the best of the rest had better be on their guard whenever he’s back in town next season.