Sébastien Ogier is “completely OK” with being beaten to second place on the final stage of Rally Italy by title rival Thierry Neuville, citing the Toyota Yaris’s lack of suitability for the powerstage’s rougher terrain.
Six-time world champion Ogier, who is second in the title race behind team-mate Elfyn Evans with a 14-point disadvantage, had gone into the Sassari-Argentiera test 1.7s up on Neuville.
But a strong run on the powerstage by Neuville, who went 2.7s faster, was enough to switch the positions right at the end, mimicking a similar battle on the same stage for victory two years ago that also went Neuville’s way.
Despite the last-stage loss, Ogier was not disappointed, as he felt the Yaris was not suited to the particularly rough stage in which team-mate Takamoto Katsuta rolled out of the event during the first pass.
“I still feel completely OK with [the result] because I couldn’t do more,” Ogier told DirtFish. “I gave everything I had and yeah, unfortunately, it was not enough.
“This last stage is very extreme conditions. The design of the Yaris, it’s a fantastic car and fast in many, many places but from design, it’s not fitting really well those kinds of very extreme conditions.
“So we knew it would be hard to beat Hyundai on this playing ground.”
While his car was not as capable as the Hyundai’s on the narrower, twister and bumpier final test, Ogier believed the Yaris was still a competitive package overall, and that it was impossible to have the fastest car on every type of stage.
“I don’t know if we need to do [anything],” said Ogier.
“For sure we can still keep working on some areas but like I just mentioned, the truth of rally is it’s always going to be a compromise between very extreme conditions from one side to the other.
“With the possibility you have regarding rules and homologation, we cannot be perfect everywhere. That type of very rough stages, from design, the Yaris is kind of low I would say, just to make it simple.
“Then the Hyundai, we have seen the last year them very strong in there.”
Ogier felt he would have taken the top spot in Italy without gravel sweeping on Friday. He pointed to last month’s Rally Turkey as evidence of his speed, where he lost time with a puncture before retiring on the final day with an engine failure.
“I feel at the moment a little bit hard luck because that’s two rallies in a row where we are fastest,” he said.
“In Turkey we were leading the rally after five stages, three [stage] wins, and from that point unfortunately it turned out a lot of issues.
“Then this weekend we are best performer but unfortunately, we had to sweep the road for 40% of the event and at the end of the weekend, let’s say the result doesn’t really show what we’ve done.
“Still, that’s why I feel quite OK today because generally, I start to settle better and better into the Yaris. The performance is there.
“It just missed a little bit of luck to transform it into a great result, even though it’s not a bad result.”
While Ogier closed the gap in the title race from 18 points to 14 in arrears to Evans, Neuville in third has closed to within eight points of Ogier.