The tussle between Sébastien Loeb and Sébastien Ogier for this year’s Monte Carlo Rally victory was something special because, although the two have owned 17 of the past 18 World Rally Championship seasons, they’ve crossed swords far less often than you might assume.
Of course, Ogier was Loeb’s Citroën team-mate for half of 2010 and the entirety of 2011, but during Ogier’s first full season in 2009 he simply wasn’t at a level to be able to challenge world champion Loeb.
And when Ogier won his first title in 2013, Loeb was around but only for four rallies – meaning that the two legends of WRC have not engaged in battle all that often.
That doesn’t mean to say there haven’t been some classic contests, however. When two extremely talented drivers slug it out for wins it’s all the more special to behold, and the 2022 Monte Carlo Rally was just one of those treats for rallying fans the world over.
Tantalizingly, there could well be more entries to join the list soon with both set to do Safari Rally Kenya later in the year, but for now DirtFish has picked out the five best Loeb and Ogier battles (and attempted to rank them in the process).
5. Monte Carlo Rally 2015
Having not competed in the WRC since Rally France in 2013 – also an event on which Loeb and Ogier were engrossed in a battle for the win, along with respective team-mates Dani Sordo and Jari-Matti Latvala – Loeb returned for a strict one-off appearance on the 2015 season opener.
But what the pre-event script didn’t say was that Loeb’s Citroën DS3 WRC would finish the first stage 22 seconds quicker than anybody else – and 30.9s up on Ogier’s Volkswagen Polo R WRC.
Ogier then bossed the second test to trail Loeb by 13.3s overnight, setting up a keenly anticipated battle the following day. Loeb was a massive 15s quicker on the first daytime stage of the event but Ogier soon began slashing the gap and had got himself eight seconds ahead of his rival before Loeb floundered.
Slithering through an icy corner, Loeb smacked a cliff face with the rear-left of his DS3 WRC and his suspension was wrecked, cutting this battle short. It’s the unfortunate brevity, and the ultimate pace differential between Ogier in his pomp and a returning Loeb, that prohibit this event from climbing higher in the list.
4. Rally Spain 2018
We all thought this surprise victory would be the last time Loeb would wave his magic wand and pull off the extraordinary. History would prove us wrong, but Ogier certainly didn’t make Loeb’s 79th WRC victory – and last with Citroën – easy to claim.
The rally didn’t start off as a Loeb vs Ogier showdown. Loeb, on his last of three events that year in a C3 WRC, was fourth after the first leg on gravel while Ogier – fighting Thierry Neuville and Ott Tänak for the title – was seventh, with Tänak clear out front.
But once on the asphalt the contest was blown wide open when Tänak got a puncture, leaving Sordo, Latvala, Elfyn Evans, Loeb and Ogier – in that order – all covered by just 13.1s. At the end of the day it was Latvala who led, but Loeb was 4.7s back with Ogier a mere 3.3s behind his old rival.
Loeb rolled the dice on the final morning by selecting hard tires while his rivals took softs. He quickly moved into the lead and had a 10.8s buffer over Ogier before Ogier responded on the penultimate test to close to just 3.6s behind.
The powerstage decided it. Ogier would’ve benefited greatly from seven extra championship points while Loeb could smell his first WRC victory in five years. Ogier was quicker, but only by 0.7s, meaning victory was Loeb’s by a scant 2.9s.
3. Acropolis Rally 2011
An overlooked and often forgotten battle between the two Sébs, the 2011 Acropolis was the most thrilling battle the two would engage in as team-mates without it getting too sour. But that doesn’t mean to say it wasn’t beginning to get political.
Petter Solberg held a commanding 51.6s lead over Loeb after the first day of the event, with Mikko Hirvonen third and fourth-placed Ogier only 5.6s behind Loeb on the leaderboard.
But Solberg was powerless to repel the charging Loeb and Ogier on the second day. Ogier won four of the day’s first six stages to vault into a 15.1s lead over Loeb, with a fading Solberg now seemingly out the picture. One stage under the cover of darkness loomed, and Ogier emerged from it 2.2s behind Loeb – backing off to force his team-mate to open the road and sweep the loose gravel on the final five stages.
Loeb (pictured above) wasn’t too impressed that he hadn’t been fed any splits from his team, but Ogier’s tactics were flawless. He took the lead on the first stage of the next day by the smallest of margins, 0.1s, but Loeb gave it his best shot and hit back on the next to go 0.2s faster and himself move into a 0.1s lead.
But Ogier’s advantageous road position soon began to pay off and, beating Loeb by 6.2s and 4.4s on the next two stages, he constructed a 10.5s lead that he wouldn’t relinquish – literally, as Loeb and Ogier set identical powerstage times to the nearest tenth (Ogier was actually 0.009s faster) to prove just how close this contest had been.
2. Monte Carlo Rally 2022
Last weekend’s epic is the only true example on the list where it has been a Loeb vs Ogier fight from start to finish. Aside from Evans briefly sneaking into second place the two Sébs dominated, trading the lead between them. Had things worked out differently, they could have been split by just half a second after three hours of competition.
Ogier drew first blood, leading after the first evening, before Loeb responded on the first full day to establish a 9.9s overnight lead as he learned his Puma Rally1 Hybrid and Ogier his GR Yaris equivalent.
Both now part-timers, Loeb and Ogier continued to steal the show on the third day as Ogier nipped the lead from Loeb’s grasp. It all culminated in something of a stand-off ahead of the second pass of the icy Sisteron.
Loeb wanted to take slicks instead of the studded tires and made his move but, having parked next to his rival, Ogier spied his tactics and duly copied that trick to set the scores even. As it transpired, Ogier would have been better served going on the winters – which proved the quicker tire – as on the next day, having built a healthy lead, a front-left puncture dumped him back behind Loeb.
Le Maestro didn’t need asking twice. Although he cut it fine, losing nine seconds of the 9.5s he had in hand on the powerstage, Loeb wound up the winner as Ogier officially finished 10.5s behind due to a jump-start off the final startline.
A truly epic battle between two brilliant drivers that had more twists than any good soap opera, but it was all perhaps a bit too polite to make it to top spot.
1. Rally Germany 2011
DirtFish thought long and hard about this one. From a purely sporting perspective, Monte Carlo 2022 just about edges it, but for the drama, theater and politics nothing can top the Germany 2011 weekend.
Tension was high as the two Citroën drivers arrived in Trier. Citroën top brass was present and speculation was mounting about Loeb’s future with the team he had won the last seven world championships with. A highly public falling out was exactly what wasn’t needed for the team, but precisely what all others onlookers were relishing.
Although Latvala won stage one for Ford, the Citroëns were in another league that day. By the end of it Loeb held Ogier to a 7.4s lead, with Ford’s Hirvonen the best of the rest but already over a minute behind.
Citroën knew it had more to lose than gain by letting its drivers fight, so instructed Loeb and Ogier to hold station and deliver the perfect 1-2 result for the team. Ogier, however, was furious.
Declining to speak to the media at stage ends was a clear sign of his disgust, but it was his driving that did the talking. Closing the gap to 4.8s at lunchtime, he wasn’t backing off and in doing so had forced Loeb to keep up a relentless pace too. He was sick of being Loeb’s number two and didn’t see why he should be the one to sacrifice his pace.
In the end Citroën got its 1-2, but not in the way it had wanted. Loeb had a puncture on the second pass of Panzerplatte – cue this Ogier line at the end of stage: “Of course I can’t celebrate it when my team-mate has a problem, but at least today I have seen there is justice in the sport.”
Ouch. Ogier won the rally by 39.8s and intra-team relations were ruined thereafter. Ogier headed for the exit door to join Volkswagen – a move that didn’t exactly work out too badly for him.