Is Ogier vs Loeb an unnecessary distraction?

The battle between the two WRC champions has the potential to cast a shadow over the main championship fight


It was the battle that had every rally fan on the edge of their seats in January. The two Sébastiens, together again, fighting for victory on the Monte Carlo Rally.

Box office stuff. Ratings through the roof. We were entranced by the two most successful rally drivers that have ever lived going head-to-head for the top step of the podium.

But is that a problem? Should we not be focused on the battle that really matters at the end of the year – who’s going to win the championship?

It’s a B-plot that cast a shadow over the main title race on Monte, and depending on how Portugal pans out, it risks happening again.


Ogier, for his part, isn’t too concerned about that. Especially as their time at the top surely won’t continue for much longer.

“With time things will change and the name of Loeb and Ogier will slowly get erased as we come to the next generation,” said Ogier.

“But now I think the people and the fans are happy to have the two last dominators of the sport still being able to compete and to be performing and fight for the top.

“That’s something a bit fascinating and somehow we have to enjoy that.”

“This is sport, you can create something special in this kind of scenario. And actually it’s not so often possible.

“Rally, for some reason, offers this possibility, so somehow we have to enjoy it.”

Toyota team-mate Kalle Rovanperä has bolted out of the blocks to a healthy 29-point lead. Of course he has, you might say – Ogier isn’t around to stop him anymore.

There is only one world champion taking on the full WRC season – and Ott Tänak is already 49 points off the pace after two DNFs in the first two rounds.


Would that mean a first title for Rovanperä, or even nearest rival Thierry Neuville, would be worth less with neither Séb trying to get in the way?

“I’m the first one to say that it’s a bit too quick to suggest that without Loeb and me, whoever wins the championship this year is not the same value,” Ogier added.

“I mean, for me, being world champion, the competition is there, you have to be the best of your time. We may have dominated in Monte but it doesn’t mean that we’re that far ahead of the others. I know that very well.

“Now what Kalle is doing is already quite special. Sooner or later things will move on.”

The question remains: how soon is sooner or later? Probably not this year, if Monte is anything to go by.

That said there’s a rather useful complication: Ogier can’t make the season finale in Japan due to a scheduling clash.

We might get distracted by two titans of rallying resuming their old rivalry on occasion this year but, so long as Neuville and company can reel Rovanperä in, there’s still potential for a grandstand finale focused on the current generation.