Sébastien Ogier has explained that he was “disturbed” by an alarm on the dash of his Toyota GR Yaris Rally1, and that’s what led to him going off into a ditch on the second day of Rally Portugal.
Reigning world champion Ogier had been running second on the road on Saturday after being forced to retire from third place on Friday afternoon with too many punctured tires.
But Ogier, who was second to fellow 2022 part-timer Sébastien Loeb on the Monte Carlo Rally, would make a mistake of his own on Saturday’s second test as he clipped a bank and was spat off into a roadside ditch.
He and co-driver Benjamin Veillas did eventually extricate their Toyota but lost over half an hour on the stage and then clocked 2m50s in road penalties for being 17 minutes late to the time control.
Ogier then made it through the daunting Amarante test but stopped just after the start to let the other cars continue ahead of him, losing another 15 minutes.
He retired the car at midday service.
Asked by DirtFish to explain what happened, Ogier laughed: “[I was] too excited to watch qualifying now, it’s Formula 1 coming!
“No to be honest it’s my mistake today. Second stage I got disturbed by an alarm on the screen where I lost the hybrid and I just for a second lost a bit the concentration or didn’t focus enough on the note or on the road and went a little wide, hit the bank and spun and got stuck in the ditch.
“[There were] no spectators there so I had to run a bit to find some to help us to continue. We finally continued but yeah, not too much damage like you see but still with these cars there’s quite complex systems and the cooling system for the hybrid for example has a leak in the rear and needs to be replaced so it’s a big change on this car, so there’s nothing to risk right now damaging anymore the car.”
Unlike Loeb, who also retired for a second time on Saturday with a mechanical issue, Ogier will restart Sunday’s stages.
But throughout the entire weekend Ogier has lacked the same magic he has often had en route to his eight world titles.
He got his first taste of Rally1 machinery on gravel in his pre-event Portugal test, but beyond the stages on the rally itself are the only other experience he has to call upon.
That’s led to some suggestions that the new hybrid Rally1 cars are proving quite difficult to adjust to.
“I mean to be honest this morning it’s always difficult to restart when you’re not fighting for anything – you don’t have the same mindset so I don’t know,” Ogier said.
“Like I said I take responsibility for that one, it’s part of the game but the positive I can take from the weekend is still some mileage from the car, some experience which will definitely help next time I jump in on a gravel event because it’s true that yesterday there was still a lot of learning, especially with this hybrid use which is quite new and evolving quite a lot, very different to what I had in Monte already in the car.
“That’s the way it is, at least today it’s not so hard to take this mistake because the rally was already over, it’s just some useful mileage which is gone.
“Tomorrow I will be there to have the back of the team in case anything happens, hopefully not, to my team-mates for manufacturers points and use these last kilometers as a last test for the next time I jump in.”
Ogier briefly paused but stopped short of confirming where that next event will be.
Teased about that, he quipped: “You know already! But somehow I’m not supposed to say the announcement.”
He is widely expected to compete at Safari Rally Kenya in five weeks’ time.