As far as Ott Tänak’s concerned the soapbox doesn’t come for free. It has to be earned. As well as his eight world championship titles, Sébastien Ogier deserved the soapbox. And his ability to use it is something the Estonian will miss about his French rival.
Through the history of the World Rally Championship rarely has one driver been so overtly targeted by the FIA as Ogier was. Remember 2015 and ’16, when the championship leader was first on the road for Friday and Saturday on WRC rounds?
Between stages, Ogier rarely – and for very understandable reasons – stepped off the soapbox.
“He had the position to speak out,” said Tänak. “If somebody from behind [further down the order] is speaking out then it’s just complaining.
“If you speak out and you have the position [as champion] then obviously people listen. It’s important to understand when you can speak out and not just complain – he knows when to do that.
“And, for sure, we were able to discuss things and [from] time to time understand things the same way.
“Is it a shame he’s stopping? It’s how it is. I really respect his decision and what he plans – there has to be some other life behind the professional life.”
Ogier hasn’t missed a round of the WRC since 2012 when he was driving a Škoda Fabia S2000 as part of VW’s ramp-up season and missed Rally New Zealand, but he won’t be present at Rally Sweden later this month as he has scaled back his WRC involvement.
But Tänak said the eight-time champion’s absence won’t impact the competitiveness of the series.
“The championship will be close there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “Ogier was always the guy pushing the bar a bit and taking it a bit further.
“We were really lucky: it was always my target to beat him when he was still in the championship and we managed it [in 2019]. In that way it was good to do it before he retired, but really he’s been the master in WRC – winning in so many different manufacturers.
“Séb’s a good benchmark and without him it will be different. But the championship will be tight.”