Sébastien Ogier says he and Julien Ingrassia “would never have been able to dream of such a perfect scenario” as ending their full-time World Rally Championship careers with an eighth crown, as they received their 2021 titles at the FIA’s prize giving ceremony.
The Toyota duo won last month’s Monza Rally to seal the championship on what was their final event together.
Ogier and Ingrassia were presented with their trophies at the ceremony at the Louvre in Paris and, speaking in the champions’ press conference earlier in the day, Ogier said winning the title was a fitting way to sign off after a final-round showdown with team-mate Elfyn Evans.
“We are delighted to be here tonight,” he said. “It’s been another fantastic season with Julien; the last one, but we would never have been able to dream of such a perfect scenario and to finish in style with another title.
“They are all important in my eyes, but it’s been very competitive the last few years, always very intense fights.
“Over our careers we had a feeling that it’s never got easier to win in rallying, probably the opposite. So being able to win five races this season and win another title showed that we kept pushing up to the end with Julien, and age has not had so much impact on us yet.”
Ingrassia, who has stepped away from co-driving since the season finale, said he was proud of their sustained success against a level of competition that got “harder and harder”.
“I said it recently many times and I don’t say it just because Séb is next to me, but really imagine that you drive flat out for 15 years on all the smallest paths on the planet on ice, on gravel, in the mud and the fog, and he managed to keep the car [on the road] all the time,” he said.
“We crashed a few times, but can you imagine in these 15 years having this reliability and performance so high at the same time?
“It has been a real adventure together; we started from zero, it was a bet of €20 [through the Rally Jeunes initiative] to start this adventure, and it’s good to think about it and say to the youngsters you can do it; you have to believe in it and work and you can do it.
“Those 15 years with Séb have been something in a lifetime that none of us will ever forget. Like Séb said, we never gave up.”
Ogier, who will be co-driven by Benjamin Veillas going forward, reiterated that next month’s Monte Carlo Rally is his only confirmed outing so far and said he would not be convinced to commit to a full WRC season if he won the 2022 season opener.
“No, for sure not, that won’t happen,” he said.
“After Monte, the chance that I don’t do rallying for a while is big.
“Because even right now I say that I need this break and it felt like actually I didn’t have any because I’m straight away into the preparations for Monte Carlo again.”
Ogier has made no secret of his desire to race in the World Endurance Championship and, though a 2022 drive looks unlikely, he did test the GR010 Hybrid hypercar at Bahrain in November.
“It was a great opportunity to discover that world,” he said of the test.
“I was always aware that it’s a very different sport and that I have a lot of things to learn, but the challenge will motivate me.
“For the next months, probably, the plan is to make some more tests, maybe some races in the second category – I don’t know, there’s no clear plan right now. But the passion for racing is still there.”
Le Mans 24 Hours winner and WEC champion Kamui Kobayashi, who has become Toyota’s WEC team principal, said he was impressed by Ogier’s test but suggested a third car would likely not be available until at least the 2023 season.
“It’s going to be very hard for 2022 because in terms of timing it’s a bit short, but it can be an opportunity maybe in 2023,” said Kobayashi.
“Sébastien, when he drove in Bahrain, was fast. Coming from rallying to a kind of asphalt driving like sportscars I would say is quite a big difference, but Sébastien was driving pretty good from the beginning.
“I think [we will] try to give a bit more opportunity for driving maybe, and let’s seen if can start a third program [then] yes, I think that can be an opportunity for him.”