World Rally Championship title favorite Sébastien Ogier has revealed he was not feeling “physically at my best” on recent rallies but insists he is on “better form” for this weekend’s Monza Rally.
Ogier leads Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans by 17 points in the championship standings with just 30 left to play for, but he had enjoyed a 44-point advantage over Evans before Rally Finland.
Evans secured a maximum score in Finland with both the rally and powerstage victory, and finished second on last month’s Rally Spain.
Ogier was fifth in Finland and outside the powerstage top five, and could only manage fourth in Spain and couldn’t match Evans on the powerstage either.
Speaking to the media on Wednesday before the WRC season finale, Ogier admitted he wants to “be a bit more performant than I have been on the last rallies if possible” at Monza.
Asked by DirtFish what had caused a slight slump in performance of late, Ogier said there are “a couple of reasons” to explain it.
“Of course there is this fact that one of the reasons is the situation in the championship and the approach I have, I try to stay a bit more on the safe side and then obviously when you’re not prepared to take all the risk it always costs you a bit,” he said.
“I think set-up wise also some rallies didn’t start the best way and I struggled a bit with the car at the beginning of the rally. And what else? On top of that physically I was not at my best also recently.
“I had some, I don’t know, some kind of tiredness which I couldn’t really understand and actually I quite appreciate the long gap [five weeks as opposed to two weeks between Finland and Spain] between the last two rallies to have the chance to recharge a bit the batteries and come here in a better form.
“I feel better starting this event and let’s say with what is at stake this weekend I’m sure the adrenaline will be high enough to push me and to hopefully be able to give a last strong performance this season.”
Ogier’s title rival Evans sounded a bit defeatist on Wednesday when assessing his title chances, reiterating a point he made to DirtFish that he knew the championship would be difficult to win ever since his gearbox problems on the Acropolis Rally.
He even went as far as to say he’s “given up on the title” before correcting himself and stating that it’s “very much a long shot”.
But Evans’ form on recent rallies has been impressive and Ogier is wary that although he has the “cards in hand” to win himself an eighth title, Evans cannot be discounted.
“It’s true, it’s a fact that he was strong on the last two events at least,” Ogier said when asked by DirtFish if he was surprised by Evans’ strong form of late.
“But I know very well this business also and I know that it’s always sometimes [affected by] the approach you have – when you start to think a bit about the risk you are prepared to take or not, that can make quite some differences.
“Now we are on the last rally and he also has a shot for the title and obviously he’s going to play it as good as he can, but I think the most important [thing] is to focus on myself and like I say, if I do a good job myself there is no reason to really worry so that’s why I still feel confident.”