Facts : By winning his eighth league title on Sunday at Monza, Sébastien Ogier came back one length behind the record holder of the discipline, his compatriot Sebastien loeb. But the Gapençais should neither match nor beat the Alsatian anytime soon, as this was, as it stands, his last full season in the WRC. Now is the time to take stock, and to wonder if his eight titles are worth more than the nine obtained by Loeb between.
YES, by Jérémy Satis
Eight will never be more than nine, but the hard science of mathematics sometimes weighs little next to the feeling, the visual impression and the memories. This is the reason why, for once, I am going to be decided and not use the “yes but”. Yes, Ogier’s eight titles weigh more than Loeb’s. In my opinion anyway. The Alsatian will always have for him the primacy of the exploit, since he is the one who really put rallying on the sport map in France. Sébastien Ogier will probably never depart from the impertinent image that was stuck to him in 2011, for having dared to attack the almighty god when they were teammates at Citroën.
But at the end of the day, looking at their respective titles in an intrinsic way, I can’t help but consider that Ogier’s perhaps go even further in terms of value and meaning. He has indeed won them with three different manufacturers, when Sebastien loeb devoted loyalty to Citroën during its hegemony. This is not a criticism of Loeb, because if Volkswagen had not known its diesel gate, Ogier surely would not have had to change dairy. But the Gapençais managed to become twice champion by taking the extremely risky bet of signing with M-Sport, a private team which no longer even had the official support of a manufacturer, in this case Ford.
When leaving Volkswagen, he had the choice of the king but decided to go for the riskiest scenario, without much guarantee, because his instinct pushed him there. There, he beat the Neuville-Hyundai duo, but above all Ott Tänak on equal terms. At Toyota since 2020, despite the maturation and the advent of Elfyn Evans, he beat the Welsh systematically on the wire at Monza, adding dramaturgy to the beauty of his conquests. Jari-Matti Latvala, his team boss and above all a martyred former teammate at VW said that Ogier was “the best in history when it comes to duels”. We will never know which of Loeb or Ogier is the strongest, but the titles of Ogier have in my opinion a bit more flavor. But everything is obviously a question of sensitivity.
NON, par Medhi Casaurang-Vergez
Ask your entourage to quote a French rally driver, and I put my hand to cut that you will be answered ” Sebastien loeb “. Even if his last title dates back almost a decade, the Alsatian continues to mark the imagination of the general public, both by his exploits and his sympathy rating. Before him, France did not have this role of nation No. 1 in the world of rallying. France was seen as a source of talent… only on asphalt. With rare exceptions (Didier Auriol in 1994), the Habs were content to fine the Scandinavians on the Tour de Corse, Rallye de Catalunya or San Remo. On the other hand, when it was a question of sending heavy weight on the gravel of New Zealand, the gravel of the Acropolis, or the ice of Sweden, the French candidates were much more discreet.
This binarity was thrown into oblivion when Sebastien loeb and Citroën tackled a full WRC season in 2003. Until then confined to asphalt heats with the kit-car and the first Xsara, the Chevron brand took a liking to the podiums on gravel. With an exceptional sense of piloting, Sebastien loeb tax Nordiques on their land from 2004 (Sweden). No surface can resist it, which is unprecedented in the history of the WRC. Withering a piece of land is more perilous than following in the footsteps of its predecessor.
Another major fact, Sebastien loeb and Daniel Elena have never known a dead end in their series of coronations. The mental investment and psychological pressure that a nine-year domination requires is undoubtedly underestimated by all observers, myself included. To those who consider the sometimes slight opposition to the Franco-Monegasque tandem, let us specify the access to the throne of the Franco-Monegasque duo. The mid-2000s saw Citroën, Peugeot, Ford, Subaru, Skoda, Mitsubishi do battle, and the list only concerns official teams! Established value, Marcus Grönholm (Ford) for example delivered epic battles, the 2007 season where the great Finn and the French exchanged the controls of the championship in a precursor version of the duel Hamilton-Verstappen in F1 in 2021.