Toyota team principal Jari-Matti Latvala believes half a season is a “good number” of rallies for Sébastien Ogier to contest, but wants to ensure that the gaps between his events aren’t too large.
Toyota announced its 2023 World Rally Championship lineup last month, confirming that Ogier will continue as a part-time driver next year – although the exact number of rallies he will contest is yet to be determined.
This year Ogier entered six of the 13 rallies, including the three final events of the season in New Zealand, Spain and Japan.
He finished sixth in the world championship standings with one win and two further podiums, placing first of the drivers not to contest a full season.
But 65% of his 97 points were scored at the end of the year, where Ogier got a run of three consecutive rallies.
Before then, he did the Monte Carlo Rally in January before next competing in May for Rally Portugal, skipping Rally Italy and then returning for Safari Rally Kenya at the end of June.
It was a similar tale for Esapekka Lappi, who shared the third GR Yaris Rally1 with Ogier in 2022 but has since fled to Hyundai for 2023.
Lappi got four rallies in a row from Estonia through to Acropolis Rally Greece, and scored 71% of his 58 world championship points through that period. It included two consecutive podiums – and potentially could have been three as Lappi was lying second in Greece before his Toyota was starved of its fuel delivery.
All of this means Latvala is keen for Ogier’s program to avoid lengthy periods of inaction next year.
“From my understanding, he has not specified how many events, but around half a season is what he has said,” Latvala told DirtFish when asked if Ogier could do a bigger program next year.
“I think if you would think about him maybe like half a season is a good number. But the important thing is that the gaps between the rallies are not getting too long because always when there’s a gap then you can see that it’s a bit more difficult to get in the speed.
“So I think it’s more important if you use it to use drivers for the third position, it’s how you look then that the gaps are not getting too long.”
Ogier added: “I think I repeat it every time but I really enjoy my planning right now.
“I still have the chance to have fun and compete for a top result with the best team and much more time for me, so honestly one more time I will say never say never. I shouldn’t say that as then people will just run stories but the truth is you won’t see me full-time next year, that’s 100% sure.
“And it should be again around what I have done this year.”
But what rallies might he do?
“The first one, you can name it.”
Monte Carlo Rally. But what else?
“I don’t know yet. There is rallies I like; there is México Rally which has always been one of my favorites, there is Germany [Central European Rally], it should become a home rally as it’s very close to me. But, yeah, it’s so hard to answer this question because I like most of the rallies.”