THREE weeks before the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship season resumes for its second half, Sébastien Ogier’s team boss has promised maximum effort to help the Frenchman beat Thierry Neuville to the drivers’ title.
Neste Rally Finland on 26-29 July opens the final leg of the 13-round season and is expected to see the start of an all-out battle to the finale at Kennards Hire Rally Australia in November.
With three victories in his Hyundai i20 Coupe, Neuville has given five-time champion Ogier an unprecedented challenge and leads the standings by 27 points.
But the gritty Ogier knows better than any driver in the elite field how to win a rally and he’ll be backed with equally-strong determination by his M-Sport boss Malcolm Wilson.
“At the moment, he’s (Neuville) got a good lead. But the one thing about Sébastien is that he knows how to win championships,” Wilson told WRC.com.
“We certainly won’t be giving up and I know he’s not giving up at this point in time. We just need to make sure that everyone does everything at 100 percent.”
Wilson is confident of a strong result in Finland, with upgrades planned to be introduced on the Ford Fiesta WRC in time for the infamously fast rally.
“We’ve got a good test planned and as long as it goes well, we’ve got some improvements coming to the car.
“Okay, Sébastien had a problem there last year but our cars were very competitive in the hands of Elfyn [Evans] and Teemu [Suninen] so I don’t see any reason why we can’t really perform very well there,” Wilson added.
Being second in the standings, Ogier will start the Scandinavian event in the unfamiliar position of second competitor on the road. Wilson conceded the Finnish weather will determine whether or not that is an advantage.
He said: “I think if we have hot and sunny weather in Finland then it will be a big advantage for him not to be the first car on the road. But as we saw in Sardinia, we didn’t get that advantage because of the rain.”
Neuville beat Ogier in the most recent round in Sardinia by just 0.7 seconds, in one of the closest margins in WRC history.