Don’t expect me and Loeb to dominate WRC Rally Portugal

Eight-time WRC champion Ogier confirmed last week that Portugal will be the second event of his partial 2022 WRC season with Toyota and is setting up another potential battle with nine-time champion Loeb, also returning to the WRC with M-Sport Ford will.

Ogier has opted to reduce his WRC commitments this year to be able to break into circuit racing thanks to an LMP2 program in the World Endurance Championship with Richard Mille Racing.

Ogier and Loeb made headlines in January when the pair were involved in a thrilling, rally-long neck-and-neck race at Monte Carlo, with Loeb winning the rally after Ogier suffered a puncture on the penultimate stage.

Monte Carlo was a rally where the two shared eight wins each, but Rally Portugal (19-22 May) will offer a very different challenge on gravel. It will also mark the first time the new 2022 Rally1 hybrid machines will compete on the surface.

Ogier has won a record five times in Portugal, including his first WRC win in 2010 for the Citroen junior team, while Loeb has two wins in 2007 and 2009 to his credit.

While Ogier is looking forward to facing Loeb again, he doesn’t expect the pair to steal the show like they did in Monte Carlo.

“Of course I’m glad that I always enjoy fighting with him,” said Ogier about the chance to fight Loeb again.

“We’ve had some nice fights during our career and it’s nice to see the fans are excited about it.

“I knew he had a good chance [Sebastien] came to this event so I teased him a bit online to get him to announce it.

Sebastien Loeb, Isabelle Galmiche, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

“I really hope we can both fight at the front, but I think the setup and parameters are different for this race, so I don’t expect us to dominate like we did in Monte and fight to the front.

“I hope that we will be involved in the fight for the lead and that it will be a nice, exciting rally. There’s Dani too [Sordo, also competing for Hyundai] So there are quite a few older generation drivers out there.

“Everyone at Monte knows it’s the rally I love to win the most and obviously I was disappointed to lose it that way. I had the work done and for something I couldn’t control I ended up losing it so that sure was frustrating.

“But on the other hand, it was a great performance from him [Loeb] and he deserved to win, so that’s part of the game, sometimes you need a bit of luck on your side to win.

“At the beginning of my career it would have been very difficult to accept that moment, but I grew up on that side a bit.”

Also read:

Ogier returned to Toyota today [Tuesday] For the first time since Monte Carlo, he is conducting a pre-event test in Portugal, which will be his first gravel run in the new GR Yaris.

The Frenchman admitted he was excited to return to a WRC car after a stint in the WEC season opener at Sebring in March.

“I’m really looking forward to going into the test now,” he added. “Maybe in my last two seasons sometimes it got a little more – not boring but more – annoying to go to tests, like sometimes I wasn’t super motivated, although I always worked hard on those days because I knew they were Extreme were important for the performance.”

“Now I can say I’m more motivated to keep going because it is [been] a long time and lots of new things to learn.”

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