FOUR-TIME World Rally Champion Sébastien Ogier believes he has nothing to lose as he starts a new era of his driving career with an M-Sport Ford Fiesta in four weeks’ time.
Ogier’s contract for 2017 with the British team, announced last week, is the biggest change for the Frenchman since he joined Volkswagen Motorsport at the start of the Polo R WRC’s development in 2012.
Following Volkswagen’s exit from the championship, he’ll now debut the all-new Fiesta at Rallye Monte-Carlo from 19 January and will throw all of his massive talent into bringing M-Sport back into the winner’s circle after a long absence – for which, ironically, he was largely responsible.
Despite the clock ticking against him with little preparation time for the new season, the winner of 22 of his 54 Volkswagen WRC starts – including three at Rally Australia – he is not feeling any undue pressure.
“I have achieved a lot these last years but feel I am in a position that I have nothing to lose. I have nothing to prove anymore,” he says in a new interview.
“I will try my best and it is definitely a good challenge to try to bring this team back to success after many years of struggle.
“I will have another test in January before the rally, which is normally two days, so it will not be much time in this car so hopefully the feeling comes very quickly.
“But that is why I said we have a big challenge in front of us and it is a bit early to know what we will be able to achieve.”
There have been major changes in and out of the car in recent months having become a father to a son, Tim, for the first time six months ago.
While he is adamant the drive to succeed has not left him in parenthood, the priorities have shifted.
“It has made it more difficult to leave home. To become a father changed my life for sure. It makes me think a bit differently and have a different perspective about life for sure.
“There were many years when I was completely focused on racing and of course now I continue to do it professionally and give my best, but I want to give some time and enjoy time with my family. I want to be a good dad, that is one of my targets now.
“It has become harder to leave and it will get even worse and worse when he grows up and starts to talk. I’m sure his mum will teach him his first sentence to be ‘dad stay home’! We have had so many good times already this year and I could not be more happy at the moment.”
With a new son in 2016, a new team boss in Malcolm Wilson and teammate in Ott Tänak, who he likes and has tipped for a first WRC victory, it is all change.
And with it the possibility that he cannot maintain his supremacy in the WRC.
But he says: “I hate to lose and, when I take part in a competition, I always give my best. I never give anything half-hearted. If I do it, I do it 100 percent. Of course, it is a nice feeling to win.
“I had the chance to be a part of a fantastic team the last four years and we were successful together. At the end, it almost became normal to win but it never came easy.”
Nine seasons have passed since Ogier first lined up in the WRC with an eighth-placed finish in Mexico driving a Citroen C2 S1600, but this season marked the 10-year anniversary since his breakthrough in the Peugeot 206 Cup.
“For sure it has gone quickly. You always look forward in life and sometimes it is nice to look back on what you have done,” he says. “Over the 10 years, I have been flying, but in the same time we achieved much more than I was hoping for 10 years ago.
“When I started I was hoping to reach the WRC and the ultimate dream was to be world champion and we achieved that and even more as now we are four-time world champions so it has been a fantastic adventure over those 10 years and it is not over. Let’s see what the future brings now.”