It’s happening. It must be. Excitement levels in the Hautes-Alpes will be off the charts on Thursday when Sébastien Ogier joins his contemporary Sébastien Loeb in the region to test a Rally1 car ahead of January’s Monte Carlo Rally.
DirtFish can’t disclose the precise location of the tests, but we understand both drivers will be running 2022-specification cars in the Gap area.
Thursday will represent Ogier’s first time in Toyota’s all-new hybrid Yaris Rally1. Loeb already spent a day aboard the Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid in Spain last month.
Ogier confirmed he would be in the car this week ahead of last week’s Monza Rally, where he sealed his eighth World Rally Championship title.
Loeb has been away from the WRC for a season, following his departure from Hyundai Motorsport at the end of 2020. Ogier admitted he would look forward to seeing his countryman back.
He told DirtFish: “It’s good for the sport, good for the entertainment generally I would say when you have more competitive drivers and more champions fighting together.
“So I think if it happened again I will look forward to it, and let’s see. Maybe already in Monte that can happen.
“He is always the reference and of course there was always a lot of talk and comparison made between us. Often we had some good fights and good battles together. So I’m sure if that happened again, there will probably be some situation where we’re fighting close together.”
On Thursday, that fascinating scenario takes a step closer as the pair make their preparations on either side of a mountain.
With the all-new 2022 WRC era now steaming into view, this week will be among the most important in the teams’ final preparations as all three factory cars are running in Europe.
M-Sport Ford is running four drivers: Loeb, Gus Greensmith, Adrien Fourmaux and team leader Craig Breen, while Toyota’s chief tester Juho Hänninen kicked the week off for the Finnish-based team. The rest of next year’s factory crews will be in the car as the week rolls on.
As revealed by DirtFish on Tuesday, Hyundai is running its completely new 2022 car close to its base in Alzenau.
Asked about the significance of the test, one team insider told DirtFish: “I wouldn’t say we’re at pre-event set-up tests yet, but it’s not far away. I guess we’ll all be back in the Alps early in the new year to get the crews and the cars through the final preparations for round one. We’re definitely getting to the business end of the thing…”
The teams have to use their allocation of 30 days of Rally1 development running before the end of the year. For next year’s pre-Monte Carlo test, the teams will be back to the regulated one day of testing per officially entered driver.