A bullish Sébastien Ogier says he knows “what I have to do in Spain” as he aims to win the rally and seal his eighth World Rally Championship title with a round to spare next week.
Ogier has led the championship standings ever since he claimed victory on Rally Croatia back in April and has looked like an odds-on favorite to go the distance since he took an unexpected victory on Safari Rally Kenya – a low-scoring event for both his chief rivals Elfyn Evans and Thierry Neuville.
Last week’s Rally Finland offered Ogier his first mathematical – albeit unrealistic – shot at putting the championship out of reach, as he headed there with a 44-point advantage with 60 left to claim after the rally.
But a subdued fifth place, and no powerstage points due to an intermittent technical issue, coupled with a maximum points haul of 30 for Toyota team-mate Evans have pulled Evans back into play.
While Neuville and Kalle Rovanperä – who both scored zero points in Finland – have now been eliminated from the equation, Evans slashed Ogier’s points lead from 44 to 24 with 30 remaining after Rally Spain.
Ogier is acutely aware the contest is “not over” as there’s “still two rallies to go” but is determined to make sure “it’s done” next Sunday.
“I know what I need to do in Spain, it’s pretty simple,” he told DirtFish. “I need to win the rally, and then it’s done.
“I don’t start the rally to finish second,” Ogier reiterated. “When I have a real chance, it’s not so often in my career that I let them [get] away, so I will fight for it and I know what I have to do in Spain.”
Ogier, who hasn’t won since June, added that he’s “really impassioned to go back on Tarmac and go for real racing, real competition, and forget about all the bulls*** around” in reference to the fact he has spent the majority of this season sweeping loose gravel off the road to his hindrance and his rivals’ benefit.
“This season, it’s been tough because basically every rally with cleaning I had to be first on the road and if you make the count, it’s eight out of 10 [rallies that I’ve done it],” he said.
“It’s quite massive, and it’s never getting easier to take.”
Evans meanwhile is aware “it’s still an uphill battle” to deny Ogier the title, but he will continue his approach of just taking each rally as it comes and making an assessment at the end of it.
“We know it’s still a pretty massive points gap,” Evans said, “but like I promised all the way through the year, we’ll go to every rally and give our best and whatever happens at the end will be.”