Sébastien Ogier’s driving, and championship-winning, style might be more in-line with Alain Prost, but he’s demonstrated throughout his career that he’s learned plenty from his childhood hero Ayrton Senna too.
Specifically, one of Senna’s most famous quotes – “being second is to be the first of the ones who lose” – is a mantra Ogier has often championed throughout his career.
It’s not a position that registers. Unless he’s winning, Ogier isn’t happy. Even nowadays when he’s not competing for a championship, first place is all that motivates him.
Arguably more so, as individual rallies are all that he can ‘win’ these days. Whereas a fourth or fifth on a bad weekend could be spun as a positive with the championship in mind, they’re meaningless to Ogier in his current program.
So why was the eight-time world champion, 58-time rally winner satisfied with just second at last week’s Rally Japan?
“Of course as a driver you always target wins, and that’s what makes you the most happy,” Ogier told DirtFish.
“But in a weekend like this, in a special occasion like this, you easily forget that you’re not winning and second place tastes very good as well.
“As you see the smile on all the team, and especially on our president who was also with us on the podium. It’s some special moment to lead.”
Being part of Toyota’s historic 1-2-3 finish at its home round gave Ogier great satisfaction. It didn’t matter that Elfyn Evans drove the winning Yaris – it was a win for the whole team after such a superb season.
I definitely wanted to be part of that, or at least contribute to this target of winning the home rallySébastien Ogier
Witnessing the passion from Toyota chairman Akio Toyoda as he stood alongside his drivers left its mark on Ogier.
“Yeah, that’s… I don’t know, I don’t even know which English word to use for that, but there is nothing better,” he smiled. “To have the support from the very top, it cannot be better.
“It’s great, he has so much passion for this sport, so we have always a lot of fun, and spraying the champagne on the president of Toyota is something you don’t think is possible before you know this guy.
“But he is like very normal, and enjoys so much his time when he’s coming to rallies, so it’s been a good weekend.”
And a very good year, all things considered.
Granted, second half of Ogier’s season couldn’t quite match that superb start where two wins from his first two starts actually propelled him to the top of the drivers’ championship, despite missing Rally Sweden.
But three wins from eight starts, and the potential for much more, are reason enough for Ogier to be happy.
“Well, I think I can be happy with my year. Already before the start of this event I was saying that I can be quite happy with my performance this year,” he said.
“Result-wise, three wins and a second place in eight races is not bad at all, and could have been even better with a bit more luck.
“So honestly I’m pleased with that, and as long as I manage to keep this level of performance, I think there’s no reason for me to stop doing this kind of program”.
Which of course we now know he won’t, as he’ll share a drive with fellow world champion Kalle Rovanperä in 2024.
Questions have often surfaced about Ogier’s WRC commitment, with many hoping he’ll change his mind and do a full-season. But it’s clear this current arrangement, with his current team, provides Ogier with everything that he needs.
That couldn’t be clearer than in his answer to DirtFish’s question about how many rallies we can expect Ogier to do next year.
“If I’m honest now, I can say it was the plan of this year was seven [rallies], and this one was not exactly planned,” he said. “I definitely wanted to be part of that, or at least contribute to this target of winning the home rally.
“And making it 1-2-3 is like, I was saying bringing a win will be a cherry on the cake, but now it’s like a massive cherry that we brought.
“So the season could have not been better for Toyota, I think.”