When you’ve got Sébastien Ogier in your team, you’d want him driving on every possible round of the World Rally Championship, wouldn’t you?
Ogier brings points. Ogier brings podiums. Ogier brings wins. And Ogier brings titles. Couple all of that to the bags of experience he also carries with him, and Ogier is still one of, if not the, most desirable rally drivers out there.
However, Toyota won’t have unlimited access to him. As his son continues to grow, Ogier wants to be around to witness all of the important steps and therefore won’t commit to a full WRC season anymore.
And yet, that might actually be no bad thing.
In Kalle Rovanperä, Toyota already has a world champion who is more than capable of delivering drivers’ titles for years to come. In Elfyn Evans, it has, at worst, a support act but also a driver who’s proved he’s more than capable of fighting for titles.
That’s not to say Ogier’s contribution is now null and void, but his worth has now shifted from being the spearhead to the safety net.
Toyota technical director Tom Fowler explained: “I think it’s difficult to get Sébastien Ogier to do a whole season at the moment.
“Of course it would be a nice thing to do in terms of manufacturer situation. But equally if you do that it puts a whole twist on the strategy.
“Because, at the moment, Sébastien Ogier is one of our manufacturer points collecting drivers who obviously comes to get some wins for himself as well, which benefits the team as a manufacturer picking up potentially the full whack of points towards the manufacturers’.
“But you bring him in for the whole season, you have a different Sébastien Ogier. He’s coming to every event to make a championship for himself, which puts a different strategy towards the manufacturers’.
“So it’s not as straightforward as just saying having the name for that many rallies is an advantage. So all this needs to be taken into consideration when we decide how many events he is doing, who is his stand-in when he’s not driving.”
Toyota confirmed last week that it will be Takamoto Katsuta who steps in to score points for the main manufacturer concern when Ogier is absent, with Katsuta driving a fourth car (like he has this season) when Ogier is present.
Toyota would of course like to utilize Ogier for as many rallies as it possibly can, but Fowler admitted “there’s no point forcing the issue” as “you also want him to want to be there”.
“I think Sébastien Ogier and Toyota are in the position at the moment where basically everyone is happy for Sébastien Ogier to do as many rallies as he wants to do, because he’s just a fantastic guy to have in the team,” Fowler said.
“Regardless of whether you’re using him to win the drivers’ title or using him to win the manufacturers’, he brings more than just his driving.
“He sharpens the entire team. You don’t go into a meeting or a conversation with Sébastien Ogier without checking your s*** first.
“Well, if you do, you’re going to regret it…”