Sébastien Ogier has admitted that he is 'gutted' after he 'gambled and lost' on the final day of Rally Mexico at the weekend – in so doing denying Citroën a dominant one-two finish and enabling team-mate, namesake and compatriot Sébastien Loeb to breeze to an incredible fifth straight success on the event.
The two Frenchmen traded the lead of the rally from SS4 onwards after wresting control away from the privately-run DS3 WRC of former World Rally Champion and early pace-setter Petter Solberg. Ogier remained in the lead until the 29km run through Guanajuato on the final morning – but then everything changed.
A fraction over ten seconds separated the pair as they left the Poliforum de León service park, until – in pushing too hard to maintain his advantage – Ogier went off halfway through the stage and found himself forced to retire with a broken left-hand front upright.
“I had to push to hold onto first place, as my position of being first out forced me to sweep the roads yet again,” explained the 27-year-old. “In a corner, the car understeered and I went a bit wide. I couldn't avoid a stone on the verge and the left-hand front upright broke.
“I gambled and I lost, but above all I'm feeling gutted for the whole team. We'd done a great job since the start of the weekend and I didn't manage to make it pay off by scoring precious points for Citroën.”
Ogier's undoing, however, transpired to be Loeb's good fortune, and after passing his stricken team-mate by the roadside, the record-breaking multiple WRC Champion – along with co-driver Daniel Elena, unbeaten in Mexico since 2006 – lifted off a touch and concentrated on stroking his own Citroën Total World Rally Team DS3 WRC home through the remaining 24km Comanjilla and short 8km Guanajuato Power Stage sprint, on which the second-quickest time earned the recently-turned 37-year-old a couple of bonus points for good measure.
“Seeing Sébastien and Julian [Ingrassia – Ogier's co-driver] on the side of the road didn't give me much pleasure,” he reflected. “We could have fought until the very end, and it's a pity it finished like that. We went back into the lead of the rally with more than 1m30s in-hand over Mikko [Hirvonen], so we just nursed it home.
“We had a very tricky rally. We had a great scrap with Sébastien, a few teething troubles with the car and my victory only came at the end. It's a good result where points are concerned, as we're in second place in the world championship. The season's really begun for us here.”
Indeed, Loeb has now risen to second in the drivers' standings heading next to Portugal at the end of the month, and after Citroën drivers monopolised 19 of the 22 fastest stage times en route
to the new DS3 WRC's breakthrough triumph, the French manufacturer's sporting director Olivier Quesnel mused that on balance, it had been a thoroughly encouraging performance following the frustrations of Sweden.
“It's another exceptional result for Citroën,” he smiled. “It was a really great rally. We lost Sébastien Ogier along the way; it's unfortunate, but that's how it goes. In the first event on gravel we showed the speed and reliability of the DS3 WRC, even if we had a few glitches. I'm feeling confident for the rest of the season, as I'm convinced that we've got the best car and the best crews. We've now got to use our brains to fight for the two world titles.”