Six-time World Rally Champion Sébastien Ogier has taken another swing at series organizers, labelling the championship “amateur” after he and his table-topping Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans were forced to sweep the road clear through Friday afternoon’s Rally Italy stages.
Ogier and Evans sit fourth and fifth after six of 16 stages, respectively 36 and 51 seconds behind rally leader Dani Sordo.
Rain in the run-up to the event had improved conditions for the pair at the front of the field through the first stage, but day one’s afternoon tests were covered in loose gravel, costing the Yaris WRC pair any chance of challenging at the front.
At the end of the day’s final stage, where Ogier was beaten by Nicolas Ciamin’s Citroën C3 R5, Ogier said: “It’s just ridiculous. It’s nothing new. Rally is [an] amateur sport and will remain an amateur sport until it’s managed in a professional way.”
Discussing the matter further with DirtFish, Ogier added: “Honestly I don’t want to go on more about it. I say what I think because I always say what I think. I’ve lost too much time and energy in the past fighting this, so I don’t want to enter this discussion again. But it’s a shame for our sport, because that’s killing it and not giving it the chance to grow and make nice battles like we had in the last rallies and that’s the way it is.
“My career is mainly behind me and I don’t want to lose any more energy fighting that. I’m happy with my day, I did everything I could. It’s been pretty good performance from our side and I think I did a good job against the guy I was fighting with.
“This afternoon was worst than I thought it would be – it’s hard when you see R5 cars are nearly beating you on the last stage, what can you do?”
In the previous events – the so-called short-form, two-day events in Estonia and Turkey – the running order has been swapped at the end of the first morning.
While Sardinia has returned to a three-day format, it only offers two miles more in competition than the Tartu-based Rally Estonia. Ogier said Italy should have followed the previous plan.
“On the last rally, everybody said: ‘Ah, it’s nice now, it’s disadvantaging the leaders, but not too much they still have the chance to fight their way back.’ I think in the paddock more or less everybody is agreed we should stay on that.
“Everybody loved the timing of the more compact rally, but somehow we still get stuck where we’ve always been. It’s a shame, but that’s the way it is.”
Evans agreed with Ogier and admitted he could sympathize with his team-mate.
“I was pretty p***** off, I think you can see that at the end of that loop,” he said. “It’s pretty frustrating when you have no chance to fight at all with the guys behind you and he’s had six years of this. Maybe my feelings aren’t quite as strong as his, but I can see how he ends up in that frame of mind if he’s had six years of this.”
Saturday’s reversed running order means the fourth and fifth placed Ogier and Evans will run eighth and seventh on the road.