WRC – S. Ogier: “Emotion came like a firework crossing the final line!”

2021 WRC - ACI Rally Monza - 2021 WRC Champions S. Ogier, J. Ingrassia and Toyota Gazoo Racing team

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
FIA event and championship winning driver – Sébastien Ogier (FRA), Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
FIA event and championship winning co-driver – Julien Ingrassia (FRA), Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
2nd place ACI Rally Monza – Elfyn Evans (GBR), Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
3rd place ACI Rally Monza – Dani Sordo (ESP), Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT
FIA event and championship winning manufacturer – Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN), Team Principal Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Q:
Sébastien, congratulations on the win here in Monza and your eighth world title. Talk about how you are feeling now?
SO:
Definitely emotion came like a firework crossing the final line, I would say. I am super happy winning this title. The rally I didn’t really know at this point. Somehow Kai (Lindström) was on the radio saying..I don’t know. From the message I was having a bit of a talk with Julien and we got only the championship (news). I knew it was enough with the drive we had done in the stage to win the championship but I did not know about the rally win. But the biggest emotion today was the small one – I would like to know what Julien is thinking – but it was such a weird feeling knowing that’s it now and that is really the end now. We achieved much more than we were dreaming 15 years ago when we met. This scenario to end up this way is the best way possible. One more unforgettable memory that I have with Julien. Hard to describe all what we feel right now. There is also this emptiness. All the pressure the attention and the questions and expectation, whatever. You achieve it and it’s amazing and then you feel empty a bit. It is unique days but you need also more time to appreciate the success.

Q:
Talk about today and the great battle with Elfyn going right through the weekend. Talk about your feeling today and we saw a couple of mistakes creeping in today?
SO:
It was a perfect line but almost too perfect I would say. I think we had a very strong weekend. I felt under control in the car. But, especially here on the circuit, it is easy to hit something lightly. And that is what happened to us. Luckily we just clipped something. A metre more in and it would have been much more consequences with at least a puncture or more. That’s the luck you need to have to have success in sport in general. It has happened to all of us at some point. I was talking to Elfyn in Spain. He had his moment and it worked. Some other times in your career you feel you have done nothing wrong and it has big consequences. That’s the way it is. We had a strong performance this weekend. It was never easy. The biggest mistake for me would have been to fall in to this full attack mode and to be fighting against Elfyn. I needed to make sure he didn’t win the rally easily. But also the Hyundais were not that far behind. They were quite strong. If you start to back off then you can easily come back pretty close to the danger zone which could be around P4 or P5 and then I would have been under pressure up to the Power Stage to score points to confirm the title. At this moment we were feeling good in the car and we kept a high rhythm all weekend. Elfyn also had a mistake this morning. This gave us a bit of room to win the rally and win this journey in style for Julien.

Q:
You have already paid tribute to Julien. It’s an incredible story and you stuck together as a professional unit. Will it be different without him?
SO:
It is simple. I am going to miss you. I am sure about it. When you build that for so many years and you have so many automatic things working together. Basically, we don’t need to talk so much to understand each other. There was never any reason in my whole career to try to change Julien. He had the same target and the same commitment to it. It was simple and I never had to push him to do anything. We had the same mission from the beginning. 15 years ago in the car I liked the way he gave me the notes. That is priority number one. That is why we do this sport to be fast into the stages. All what is around is the organisation let’s say, but what is around is even more the speciality of Julien. Sometimes he feel a bit out of reach in his bubble and maybe he is a bit mental sometimes. He is completely focused but you cannot put him at fault. That is the way he is doing his job. Only once in my career – you will have heard the story recently in your podcast – a team tried to separate us. When I was entering the sport, there was this philosophy that sometimes it’s better to have an experienced co-driver at your side. Luckily I was a bit stubborn and strong enough at this point in my career to say no and I wanted to carry on with Julien and I don’t see it that way and we keep together. At the point of my career where I had to prove myself that I have the capacity to be at the top level and kind of putting at risk my position and my future. Most of the drivers when they are entering this world are saying yes to everything because they are scared for their position. I was already at this moment strong enough to say Julien will make it and today I can say it was the right decision.

Q:
Julien you have said that this is the final time we will see you in the co-driver’s seat and you have sealed title number eight in an incredible career alongside Se. How are you feeling right now?
JI:
Like you mentioned, and as Seb was saying, pure emotions. We approached this rally with the same spirit – working hard and being serious. By my side I close everything around me and I was in my bubble to stop anything entering and stopping me to be sure we win the championship. Maybe you have seen on the final stage, once we passed the finish line, I could not keep the tears out of my eyes. I was so happy to be with Seb and say wow all those 15 years we have been spending in a human lifetime, this is just crazy. This is just pure joy and I wanted to finish my career with this joy and these emotions. We did a great job in 15 years from the very first step with Seb when we met and we had our first pace note together and our first podium and our first win together. Some were not easy I can tell you. We always worked very hard and we never forget our target was to reach the top. Once we reached the top it was even harder and more difficult to remain at the top. Mission accomplished…

Q:
54 wins in total and you won the title with different manufacturers. It’s been a real journey?
JI:
Yes, what a journey, for sure. All the people here on the podium today are people that have been there all our careers. It’s cool to finish with these people around us. We have always been in the very good spirits and I want to thank all of you guys. This is the spirit of the  WRC. We all agree that we are facing some difficult circumstances but we are still respecting each other. That is the sport that I wanted to do.

Q:
Elfyn, second position after an incredible battle with Seb this weekend. What was it like to be part of it?
EE:
Quite enjoyable most of the time but also a bit frustrating from my side. I did a few little errors and a few sections I was not happy with. We know what these guys are like. You give an inch and they take a mile. That was how it was. It was great to be part of. Disappointed to make that error today and to fall away from the fight. But it was still an enjoyable weekend.

Q:
You set some great pace. You said before the start that the title was a long shot. It seemed that it was not in your mind at all during the weekend?
EE:
Not really to be honest. I had already accepted back in Greece that this title is more or less done now. Of course we still managed to claw back to put a bit of pressure on the guys. We also know that they deal with pressure pretty okay. It was at least fun.

Q:
Give us a reflection on your season?
EE:
Just a bit mixed. It was my best season in the championship and I was happy to fight for the title. If you had of asked me two years ago then you would have said I was probably dreaming if I was going to fight for the title two years in a row. From that side we can be happy. Then, when you are in the moment, you always want more. Now the feeling I have makes we more hungry for the future.

Q:
Dani, congratulations on third position here. Nice to round out off the season on the podium. How are you feeling about it?
DS:
I feeling really good to be on the podium with these champions. From the beginning of the rally we understand the rhythm was really high and it was difficult to make the times. But I am happy to take the third place.

Q:
It’s the rally in the car before we start the new era. How does that feel?
DS:
I enjoy a lot these cars. We had luck as drivers to drive these cars. They are amazing to drive. Yesterday on the last real stage of the rally for these cars was amazing because, at the same time, the stage was really nice. The circuit today was more difficult and more special but we enjoy a lot all the weekend.

Q:
What happens now between here and Monte-Carlo? What is the plan?
DS:
I don’t know. I will do some tests with the new car and some work. Let’s see after.

Q:
Jari-Matti, you have the Manufacturers’ Drivers’ and Co-drivers’ titles. The triple in your first year as team principal. How are you feeling?
JML:
It’s a bit the same feeling as Seb says about. When you have had a long season and you try to reach the title and when you reach it then the emptiness comes. You are really relieved and empty as well. For myself, this is a unique situation and very emotional. Previously, when the Manufacturers’ Championship went to Toyota in 2018 in Australia and I won it as a driver. Now winning the same as the team principal we have had an amazing season with nine victories, Seb, Julien, Elfyn and Scott – one-two in the championship. You cannot ask more. It’s a perfect season that I could never dream of. I want to tell you a little story. Nine years ago when we were with VW testing in Mexico at the end of 2012 and with Seb we both wanted number seven on the car. We decided to do it with a coin (toss). I won it. I choose the number seven. I did not realise that he choose the number eight and that is now the amount of titles he would win….

Q:
What has been the biggest learning curve for you?
JML:
Watching our drivers, what they do and areas where they concentrate. It is a little bit sad to say but now I understand why I didn’t become a World Champion myself when I watch these guys. Nice learning but at the same time a little bit sad. The team, let’s say, we managed to get everybody working together. Everyone was aiming for the same target. That was been like a new world for me and managing such a big group of people. At the same time, we need to make sure that the drivers feel happy in the car and they can do their best performances. Quite a lot of learning what I can say to the drivers and what I can say to the team and what are the right things to keep everybody motivated.

Questions from the floor

Jason Craig, Crash.net (GBR)

Q:
Sébastien, we know you intend to do Rally Monte-Carlo in 2022. Can you tell us if you will do any others (Rally New Zealand and potentially Rally Northern Ireland if the UK is added to the WRC calendar)?
SO:
Please not today. I cannot answer this question today. Monte-Carlo is pretty sure at least and that is it. Let me enjoy this moment first. New Zealand sounds good. It is an amazing place and an amazing rally. I have only been there once and Jari (Latvala) beat me by two seconds. One of the craziest final stages I have ever done in my career. Some time in life you need to have a bit of passion so give me a bit of time. 

Q:
Elfyn, you will become the new lead driver at Toyota next year. What have you learned from Seb ahead of this step up and what advice, if any, has be given you ahead of this change in the team?
EE:
First of all, I don’t think there is a lead position within Toyota. I think people assume because I am the driver with more experience that I end up leading the team. But I think what makes the team so strong is that everyone gets the same opportunity. I think that drives the team forward and I am happy the team will continue like that next year. I work very well with Kalle. I have not worked so much with EP but I have had some contact with him and Seb will also remain part of it, so from my side nothing is changing and I am happy to work with the team. With Seb I learned more from the defeats and being around him. I also learned during my time at M-Sport that there are times to copy and times to do your own thing also. You naturally learn from having someone of that calibre and so successful around you.

Eric Dupain, De Broodplank (BEL)

Q:
What is it like to be part of WRC history?
SO:
I never forget this dream of mine as a child watching Monte-Carlo with the eyes full of stars thinking I was born in the wrong place. I don’t have any money and I cannot do that. I never forget that and we made our way through the sport to the top and remained on the top for so many years. I am proud of that for all these years. It has been a unique journey and on top of all this, victories and nice numbers. That kind of things I was looking at when I started my career. But now it is more about the emotion and the people we have met along the way. It’s nice to be here today with Jari, Dani and Elfyn. Everyone here today have been team mates before. Maybe there will also be some nice side of it to come back even more relaxed and enjoy some different things together. I am proud of this journey and to be part of the history of a sport which gave me a dream as a kid.
Also, one extra thing about Kalle this weekend. I know he had a tough one. It’s always hard to take. Kalle played the team game this week. I had many rallies like this at the start of my career. It’s always difficult when you are at the start of your career and you have ambition as well. He did it brilliant to secure the Manufacturers’ title. Thank you Kalle. Being part of this fantastic Toyota team gives him the full opportunity to fight soon and more enjoyable weekends are coming.

FIA WRC2 CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
FIA WRC2 championship winning driver – Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR), Toksport WRT
FIA WRC2 championship winning team – Flora Pergel (HUN), representative of Movisport
1st place ACI Rally Monza – Nicolay Gryazin (RUS), Movisport (not scoring points for the drivers’ championship in Monza)

Q:
Andreas, champion in WRC2 that was confirmed in Spain. Competition mode for you this weekend. Does it feel fully confirmed in your mind now?
AM:
It’s sinking in, of course. We set our goals very high and we won both championships and we are happy. We had a car that was very reliable and competitive at the same time. I am glad we made it. Regarding this weekend not a perfect weekend for us obviously with a puncture on day one and we lost 2min 10sec. It was not the fastest tyre change I have done in my career. We did not practice it with my co-driver before the rally. We completely forgot about that. We managed to catch back a little bit of time but it was not enough. Anyway, happy to end the year. It has been very busy. Two championships is a lot plus Pirelli testing plus Škoda development testings. I am quite happy to see the year go to a close.

Q:
Can you tell us anything about next year?
AM:
I will start the season in a Škoda with Toksport. That’s like the base plan at the moment. Of course, we want to be in a WRC but there are no spots available. The only thing we can try to do is to be first in line if something happens. We will do WRC2. but we want to be in WRC. We are trying to find our way back as good as possible.

Q:
Flora, you have taken the Teams’ Championship for Movisport after a successful year-long battle with Toksport. How are you feeling?
FP:
First of all thanks to Toksport. Everyone knows that at the end of the race it was a delicate situation between Toksport and Movisport. Movisport was nominating Nicolay as a driver but he was run on two events by Toksport. We can say like 33% of our success was made by Toksport. Big thanks for them again. It was a successful event because we had the fastest drivers and our main driver was Nicolay Gryazin and we managed to get also Lappi and Suninen and even Radsoli in our driver line up. Thanks to them that at the end of the year we just beat Toksport. The big respect was to them.

Q:
Great drivers in your team throughout the year?
FP:
We were lucky to be honest. We could use the regulations that past WRC drivers were not allowed to drive in WRC3, so it was the gap for us to approach them and make them drive for Movisport. We were lucky.

Q:
Nicolay, you set some serious pace on the stages. How much have you enjoyed the experience this weekend?
NG:
It was a great experience for me. Mountain stages were quite nice for is because we were not risking too much and still showing good pace. It was okay. The stages at Monza were a new experience for me. I was excited every day to find the proper style of driving to improve the times. It was difficult to manage. We needed to get the result for the team and I also wanted to work with that. You are trying to do something with not risking still. It starts to be not easy. On Friday we did a small mistake in one junction and I was lucky. The team did a brilliant job in 15 minutes to turn me back for the night stage because my bonnet was also a little bit bent and we needed to fit the lights.  I am quite happy with the weekend and the season. We increased the pace.

Q:
What is the plan for 2022?
NG:
For the moment I think it will be a Rally 2 car. We are still making our choice. As soon as possible we will announce it.

FIA WRC3 CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
FIA WRC3 championship winning driver – Yohan Rossel (FRA)
FIA WRC3 championship winning co-driver – Maciej Szczepaniak (POL)
1st place ACI Rally Monza – Andrea Crugnola (ITA)

Q:
Yohan, wow. You are the champion for 2021. It went right down to the Power Stage. You were so emotional at the end. It meant a lot, yes?
YR:
The feeling was just crazy at the end. It was so close before the start with Kajet. I had just one target and that was to go flat out. I push for the Power Stage and all is okay and my concentration as on the driving. It was perfect.

Q:
You led for a lot of it. It seemed to change here when we got to the circuit?
YR:
The mountain stages were not so bad. Andrea was more faster than me and all. On the track honestly I did not have the performance. I work a lot in the night to understand and change a lot on the setting. It was better. But it was so close. The guys next to me are very fast and it is perfect to end like that.

Q:
What can you tell us about 2022?
YR:
Honestly, I think WRC2 in a Citroën but it is not clear for the moment. In a few days I think it is okay because the Monte is just two months away. If we need to win, we prepare now. I go to celebrate and we will see for 2022.

Q:
Maciej, you are the co-driving champion within WRC3. It was a furious battle. What were the emotions like today?
MS:
The fight throughout all the season was close and hard. If you think globally, after seven rounds and thousands of kilometres and hundreds of stages, it comes down to the final Power Stage and we were leading the championship by 1.6 seconds. You cannot imagine something more emotional for the drivers and the spectators. We lost as a crew but the faster won. I am thankful to Kaeto because my championship title is because of his skills and performance. I would not do that without him. For WRC it was a very good season and a big fight all over the rallies.

Q:
Do we know what the plans are for 2022? What was the highlight of your year?
MS:
Not at the moment. It’s a bit too early to decide. I hope we will see each other soon. We had a very strong start in Croatia and the one and only proper mistake we did was one missed braking in Sardinia when we were leading the rally and lost some places. It looks like this mistake – this one braking point – was for the weight of the championship But we finish six times on the podium out of seven events, so I think it is not so bad.

Q:
Andrea, the winner of WRC3 in Monza this weekend after a great battle. How are you feeling?
AC:
For sure, I am really happy about the result. It was a big battle for all the weekend. We struggled a bit on Friday. We had some issues. We lost a lot of seconds but I was able to push quite a lot. We also have some knowledge of the stages at the race track because of the old Monza rallies. I am happy for the team and for Hyundai. This is the first real victory for them in RC2. I think it has been a good weekend for everybody.

Q:
What are your plans for 2022?
AC:
I don’t know for the moment. I hope to continue with the Hyundai. l will speak about it in the next few months.

 



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