Olivier Quesnel has stood by his decision to allow Sebastien Loeb and Sebastien Ogier fight for victory in Rally Mexico and insisted it is the right approach for the Citroen team in its fight for the WRC title.
Ogier was leading Loeb into the final day of the event but then went off the road on the first stage of Sunday morning, handing victory to Loeb but robbing Citroen of what looked certain to be a first 1-2 finish with the new DS3 WRC.
It came after the team boss elected not to impose team orders on his drivers and while he admits that inter-team rivalry between the French pair is inevitable, Quesnel said he hadn't expected it to surface so early in the year.
“Rivalry between two drivers of this calibre is inevitable,” he said. “Sebastien Ogier is a very ambitious guy, but up against him is Sebastien Loeb who's at the top of his form after winning seven world titles on the trot. Seb' Loeb is absolutely determined to prove that he's still the best driver in the world.
“We knew we'd be faced with this situation but we didn't think it would arise so quickly. In Mexico, their rivalry didn't lead to a totally positive outcome for Citroen. I'm convinced, however, that it will help the team score great results in the coming rallies. Handling this situation is part of my job as team principal. I have to make sure that the interests of the make are privileged above all else. We have to stick together and keep working to give our two crews the best possible chances to score victories.”
Quesnel added that, while a 1-2 finish in Mexico would have been ideal, there were still plenty of positives to take away from the weekend – which include a more favourable road position for Ogier in Portugal this weekend as he looks to repeat he victory of twelve months ago.
“Obviously, we'd have preferred to score a 'one-two', but rallying isn't an exact science!” he said. “As was the case on several occasions in 2010, Citroën made the sportsmanlike choice. Sebastien Ogier, who does not have #2 status in the team, made a mistake. It was a blow to the team, but a much bigger one for him. It doesn't help his chances in the Drivers' World Championship chase.
“It'll give him a good starting position in the next few rallies, although that won't make his fight back any easier. It's not the first time that one of the Citroens has retired in Mexico, and that hasn't prevented us from winning the world title six times.”