What Ogier’s WEC test debut told us about his 2022 WRC plans

Sébastien Ogier got his first real taste of Toyota's GR010 endurance racer in Bahrain on Sunday

WEC 8 Hours of Bahrain

World Rally Champion Sébastien Ogier’s first day at the wheel of Toyota’s Le Mans 24 Hours winning GR010 Hybrid hypercar gave us a much clearer picture of how he envisages life after the end of his full-time WRC career.

But it also made clear that his 2022 WRC program is currently a completely blank canvas – which means no clarity for his Toyota ‘car share’ team-mate Esapekka Lappi right now either.

Here are the certainties:

After 14 seasons in the WRC, 2021 will be 37-year-old seven-time champion Ogier’s last full-time campaign. Monza Rally in two weeks’ time is his final chance to win title number eight unless he has a later change of heart.


He is keen to tackle Le Mans, and Toyota is known to like the idea of him doing so in one of its cars but also to regard its 2022 World Endurance Championship line-up as full.

Ogier will still be part of Toyota’s 2022 WRC season, sharing a third car with Lappi while Elfyn Evans and Kalle Rovanperä will be the team’s full-time title hopes. However he’ll do so with a new co-driver – Benjamin Veillas – as Julien Ingrassia is stepping away from their partnership.

Earlier this year Ogier made clear that he needed to test Toyota’s sportscar to work out what his transition to that world required of him, and only then would he figure out what his 2022 plans might look like.

On Sunday at the Sakhir track in Bahrain that had hosted the 2021 WEC’s final two rounds, Ogier took the first big step in that process by driving the Toyota in the series’ official rookie test.

WEC 8 Hours of Bahrain

Three-time Le Mans winner, double WEC chmpion and former Formula 1 driver Sébastien Buemi alternated with Ogier in the car to set benchmark times and give him guidance – though Ogier suggested that, while grateful for Buemi’s help, there were times when set-up changes the experienced sportscar racer had made in his runs “kind of disturbed me a bit too much” as he tried to get his head around the GR010.

For his part, Buemi is understood to have been impressed by how Ogier got on. Having been part of this Toyota program since its 2012 inception, Buemi knows what the team needs.

Ogier set a best time of 1m50.647s, admitting that he made an error on what should have made his main effort with fresh tires. That was just under two seconds away from Toyota regular Mike Conway, just over a second and a half off Buemi and one second slower than Toyota’s other rookie – 20-year-old Frenchman Charles Milesi, who had been part of Team WRT’s LMP2 title-winning line-up this year.

I honestly wouldn't like to be given a free chance to go now, not ready and not being at the level I want to be Sébastien Ogier

“Obviously I was still a bit behind the reference from the team, but that’s not a surprise,” said Ogier. “The other way around would have been a worry for them, I would say!”

He summarized the test as “very interesting”, “fun” and “definitely not much comparison with rallying”, but it was also very serious business.

Toyota has form for bringing a superstar from elsewhere into its Le Mans line-up, having famously run F1 legend Fernando Alonso to two wins in the 24 Hours and a WEC title when he was exploring life outside the grand prix paddock.

But while Alonso was regarded by sportscar insiders as having been a major asset to Toyota’s program, there was a degree to which it wouldn’t have mattered if he hadn’t been. His stint was in the era when Toyota really only had itself to beat after Porsche and Audi left the series, and Alonso’s presence was good for the championship and the brand.

Now the WEC’s getting much tougher. Peugeot returns to take on Toyota next season, and Audi, Porsche, Ferrari, BMW, Cadillac and Alpine are also preparing cars for the hypercar rules that will apply in both the WEC and its American sibling IMSA.

Though he did say “nothing is impossible” when asked if there was any chance of racing an extra Toyota entry at Le Mans 2022, and described driving for the factory team in sportscar racing’s premier event as “the ambition”, Ogier made clear nothing had been discussed with Toyota’s WEC squad beyond this toe-in-the-water test.

He knows he has to prove he would be a competitive part of the line-up and really earn his place.

“There’s probably still some way to go,” said Ogier.

WEC 8 Hours of Bahrain

“It’s very fresh now, it’s something I need to discuss with them, really try to get their feedback on this first day and what they really think of what I’ve done.

“Then I’m aware that I have some work to do to be ready.

“I honestly wouldn’t like to be given a free chance to go now, not ready and not being at the level I want to be.

“I don’t want anybody to please me by saying ‘you’ve done well’. I like to face the truth and I like to have the facts in front of me.

“I’m a competitor and of course I would love to be straight away able to do what they do here. But you have to be realistic, it’s hardly possible.

WEC 8 Hours of Bahrain

“First of all I need to give myself a real chance to progress and see if I manage to make the step I need to do.”

That may well mean more trips to the simulator at Toyota where Ogier prepared for this test, and he admitted to being eager to learn more about the WEC testing allowances too.

But sportscar racing’s lower classes are likely to be his first step for 2022.

“If I have the ambition to be in a top team I think LMP2 would probably be better to think about than GT,” said Ogier, who added that he had not contacted any LMP2 teams yet as his focus was still on completing the WRC season.

“Obviously GT would be better than nothing and already getting the experience of those kind of races, and I’ve seen the races in GT and the level is very high and for sure there’s something to learn as well.

I already had a couple of slides and it's less fun than the rally car to slide in! Sébastien Ogier

“But probably LMP2 would be even better if possible.”

Ogier is not a complete beginner in circuit racing terms.

He tested Red Bull’s 2011 F1 car four years ago and has made cameo racing appearances at various levels, including GT events and a guest outing for Mercedes in the DTM in 2018.

Getting used to where the WEC hypercar fits into his circuit racing databank was one of Ogier’s main challenges at the test, as he described the GR010 driving style as more a “fine line” that has to be found rather than an aggressive push.

“I expected even more downforce and more attack on the brakes,” Ogier added.

“I don’t have much experience with this kind of car, but from running in the DTM and testing an F1 car once I expected something closer to that in terms of brake attack.

WEC 8 Hours of Bahrain

“And actually it’s pretty sensitive and it’s pretty easy to lock the wheels in this car. That’s one of the things I discovered today.

“And working with the traction control, which is something you can adjust a little bit and it was a bit stronger than I expected. Somehow it made the car a little easier to drive, but not easy to be fast with, I would say.

“There are many things I have to discover but those would be the two where I struggled probably the most today.

“With these cars, any slides are very costly in terms of time.

“In rallying we tend to drive more and more cleanly – we know it’s the fastest way.

WEC 8 Hours of Bahrain

“But this car accepted even less. I already had a couple of slides and it’s less fun than the rally car to slide in!”

Reading between the lines of Ogier’s discussion of the car, it didn’t seem to wow him. But this isn’t about getting a different car performance thrill – it’s about setting the new mission of being successful in another top-level discipline. He wants to win Le Mans, and the Toyota GR010 is his best chance of doing it.

But that almost certainly won’t be in 2022. As he heads away from Sakhir, Ogier’s full attention is emphatically back on defending that 17-point lead over Evans in the WRC-deciding Monza Rally in a fortnight.

And after that, hopefully Lappi isn’t too eager to put any firm 2022 commitments in his diary because Ogier isn’t in a hurry to pin down how their split season will work.


“At the end it’s clear that I’m staying with the team and it’s clear that the team has the opportunity to have two performing drivers for the third car next year,” Ogier said of his 2022 WRC schedule, something he said he had “not really” given any firm thought to yet.

“And the good thing is that whatever my decision is, Esapekka Lappi can jump in and will be ready to do a good job for the team as well.

“So that’s why I can be a bit more relaxed with that. I have the chance to wait a little bit more for that decision.”