If Sébastien Ogier, the winner of eight of the last nine World Rally Championship titles, offers some advice, your best bet is to take notice and heed it.
So listen up Kalle Rovanperä, here it comes.
The way to guarantee future success in the WRC is to not push too hard. Don’t make the championship, as Ogier called it, “boring”.
Essentially, don’t do what Ogier himself did.
But winning is winning, it’s not his fault if the others can’t keep up, so why would a boring championship be Rovanperä’s problem? Put simply, because of how the FIA responded to Ogier.
Comparisons have already been made between Rovanperä’s 2022 and Ogier’s 2013 seasons – chiefly by their current boss Jari-Matti Latvala who said after Rally Portugal that Rovanperä is in the “same zone” as Ogier was back then in a season where he won nine of 13 events.
Ogier of course won his first world title in 2013, taking over from Sébastien Loeb’s reign. Sound familiar?
But that’s not what prompted Ogier’s playful jibe.
In 2013, the qualifying stage – which still exists in the European Rally Championship today – was what decided the running order for the first leg of each event. This only boosted Ogier’s dominance, as he and the Volkswagen Polo R WRC were quite clearly the most competitive package and were rarely, if ever, on the back foot due to road position throughout the season.
However for the following season the start order rules reverted to what currently exists, with the crews beginning Friday’s stages in championship order before the reversed rally classification decides the start order for the final two days.
It made no difference. Ogier and VW won again.
In 2015 the rules were changed again as the championship leader needed to run first for both Friday and Saturday, putting that driver at a severe disadvantage on gravel rallies.
Ogier took this very personally, to the point that it still irks him to this day. He felt targeted and that the situation was unjust – that he was being unfairly and unnecessarily penalized for being the best.
Those rules existed for both the 2015 and ’16 seasons (where Ogier and VW continued to win despite the increased handicap) before being reset to the current system in 2017, coinciding with the WRC’s new technical regulations.
Last weekend’s Safari Rally Kenya was Rovanperä’s fourth win from the last five rallies, earning him a healthy 65-point barrier just before the season’s halfway stage.
Reflecting on a hugely successful weekend for Toyota – where it recorded a 1-2-3-4 finish for the first time in 29 years – with DirtFish, Ogier extended his congratulations to the entire team and his team-mates, before cheekily dropping the nugget.
“The team really deserves a big round of applause and I’m sure everybody is happy in Japan,” he said.
“It’s been an amazing effort. I congratulate the team but my team-mates as well because they have done a very strong job, especially Kalle.
“One more victory, a really impressive season so far so yeah, he starts to make the championship boring.
“So be careful, the rules might change! Be careful, don’t push too much.”
All said in good jest, of course. But Rovanperä’s rivals must surely be hoping he listens.