WRC » 23 January 2013
Sebastien Ogier: 2013 title favourite?
It does, however, become a more realistic goal when you look at Volkswagen's three year plan and reported €30mn investment into its WRC program; an amount which is considerably more than Citroen - the series' only other manufacturer – has invested.
It's simple; If VW has the cash, then it can afford the best drivers and the best people to help them succeed; Double World Rally Champion Carlos Sainz, ex-Ford RS man Jost Capito, ex-Sauber F1 Team technical director Willy Rampf and former WRC co-driver Sven Smeets are all on board, and given this mouth-watering track record of speed, rally knowledge and technical nous, then once again, it seems difficult to imagine anyone apart from The Boys in Blue and White taking the 2013 title.
VW's ethos of “spend spend spend” and subsequent strong technical back bone are not, along Ogier's talent, the only factors which will give him his first title. There is also the small matter of competition.
From 2004 until just last season, the WRC was dominated by Loeb: the Little Big Man from the Alsace taking nine world titles over this period with the works Citroen team (and one with a privateer Xsara WRC run by Kronos in 2006) and a record breaking 77 wins.
Loeb, however, is not around full time anymore and has opted to run a four-event program with Citroen this season meaning that his run of world titles will come to an end, as will most likely the Versailles based team's domination of the sport. This is not to take anything away from new team leader Mikko Hirvonen, but he failed to beat Loeb consistently and it is impossible to imagine him stepping up a level to continue the team's dominant run. With M-Sport having lost Ford manufacturer backing and running a relatively rapid but inexperienced team and Volkswagen team-mate Latvala giving himself a six-month settling in period, it becomes even more difficult to imagine any driver other than Ogier taking the 2013 world championship.
The aspects regarding the competition will not be lost on him and neither will the fact that with the exception of Marcus Gronholm, he has been the only driver to show both the speed and consistency to show Sebastien The Elder the way. The difference between Ogier and Gronholm however, is that Ogier did it in Loeb's Citroen team and it rattled his compatriot. It rattled him a lot…
As Capito wrapped up VW's glitzy Monaco launch, he fired a subtle message of determination to the WRC and its competitors.
“You can count on one thing from Volkswagen over the next few years: we will put our heart and soul into achieving these goals.”
With its objective of achieving podiums already completed after one round and its overall strong financial package and personnel line up, Volkswagen then appear to have everything in place to take both titles.
So, Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the 2013 world champion, Sebastien Ogier.
by George East
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