Volkswagen's Sebastien Ogier says he is keen to fight for the victory this weekend on Rally Australia and that he is not feeling under any “extra pressure”, even though he stands on the verge of securing his third WRC Drivers' title in a row.
Following his sixth victory of the season last month in Germany he is now within touching distance of joining an exclusive club of drivers with three or more titles. Indeed only Sebastien Loeb (nine), Juha Kankkunen and Tommi Makinen (four each) have lifted the crown more times and with a lead of 93 points over team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala, if he finishes ahead of the Finn in Coffs Harbour, no matter in what position, the title will be his.
Asked how he feels on the eve of the event on Thursday – and after a scare in the shakedown
- Ogier insisted he is very relaxed.
“I think everybody would love to have the position I have,” he said. “I'm getting close to another title, but that's no reason for any extra pressure.
“I will try my best to fight for the victory here, on stages I really love. We had a good performance last year and I hope to do the same again.”
Ogier will have to run first on the road on Friday and Saturday, however, and concedes that will make any victory attempt 'down under' tough.
“It's not easy to open the road and I will have to take some risks to compensate for this,” he explained. “I hope to stay in the fight though and stay in the good group to fight for the victory.”
Pressed on if the cleaning effect will be worse in Oz than elsewhere, Ogier replied: “I shouldn't say anything... if by some chance I'm still at the front then they say: “See, it's not so bad!” We have seen some bad conditions in places like Sardinia, but there we were lucky with a bit of rain. Here I crossed my fingers with the cloud, but unfortunately they did not bring so much water. It can be hard here, difficult in some sections. The longest stage of tomorrow [Newry Long at 29.51km] is not as bad as last year. Anyway, I will not think so much about that – just give my best.”
He also added that he is looking forward to Saturday's long stage, the 50.80km Nambucca test, although he does have concerns about Valla 2, which will be run in the dark.
“The long stage is part of rallying from time to time. It's a nice challenge, especially this one, which has a beautiful profile. The night stages on gravel, I'm not sure this is the best – when it brings dust, it can be not so easy. You know I'm always fighting for the fair conditions for everybody, but when it comes to dust it can be tough. I have heard we will get three-minute gaps, I hope it'll be enough. This is not the best on the safety side.”
Finally, he was quizzed on what it will mean to take the title again: “You work so hard and hope so much for that, when it comes it did not give you back enough from what you invest – but it will make me a really happy man.
“When we do our sport, we invest a lot of effort and spend a lot of time with this. When we have the satisfaction of reaching our target at the end of season, that's the best. It would also mean that I could relax at the end of the year and fight for victory [on rallies] and not think about the championship. I will do all I can to get it this weekend,” he concluded.