Rally México winner Sébastien Ogier says he sees life differently now and that is helping his driving.
The eight-time World Rally champion brought an end to his full-time WRC career after securing his latest title in 2021. Since then he has combined a part-time schedule with other interests including a sportscar program geared around the Le Mans 24 Hours last year.
But a shift in focus for the 39-year-old family man clearly hasn’t impacted his form. Since last fall, the Toyota driver is three from four in the WRC, adding wins in Monte Carlo and México this year to his Rally Spain success in October.
Ogier himself believes that a less intense schedule and a more relaxed outlook – even before his semi-retirement – has only boosted his performance behind the wheel.
He currently leads the world championship despite missing February’s Rally Sweden.
“I don’t think so, to be honest,” Ogier began when DirtFish asked if not having to think about the championship situation changes his approach to rallies.
“I think I’m always the same competitor and I always want to give the best whatever the situation. So I think about the fact that I’m relaxed, it’s anyway been like this the last few years more and more.
“When I went through during my career, I think I always managed to relax myself more and more. And I have… still the same passion for it, the same will to win and I’m the same competitor.
“But I see life with a different perspective since many years. And that’s maybe the reason why I get more and more relaxed.
“But yeah, of course when you play a championship, it’s always a little more pressure. But at the end I don’t feel really different. I have the feeling, I come to a rally like I always have done and I want to give my best.”
Toyota team principal Jari-Matti Latvala, who spent four years as Ogier’s team-mate at Volkswagen, has observed his driver benefit.
“Sometimes if you feel slightly more relaxed, you might actually improve your performance,” said Latvala.
“So making half of the season, coming with a relaxed mind with the events, but at the same time the 100% fighting speed. So it seems to pay off and works for him very well.”
Latvala agreed that Ogier appears to be enjoying his rallying more than ever.
“This is absolutely right,” he said. “But that’s sometimes what we as top drivers, where we forget sometimes. As a former top driver, I know myself that you forget sometimes the enjoyment of the driving and you start to work.
“OK, it is work, but if you take it too much as work and you forget the enjoyment, you lose a bit of performance from driving for sure.”
Ogier will contest the next round of the WRC in Croatia, but does not intend to increase his planned schedule.