THREE times Ogier has finished second in Argentina, now he wants the top step.
After five world titles and 43 victories, little is missing from Ogier’s FIA World Rally Championship curriculum vitae – except for success in Argentina.
The Frenchman has the opportunity to put that right at this weekend’s YPF Rally Argentina when he targets success in his ninth attempt at the South American classic.
Ogier is in strong form. He’s won three of the opening four rounds in an M-Sport Ford Fiesta; back-to-back wins in Mexico and Corsica have earned a 17-point championship lead over Thierry Neuville.
“It’s the only event Julien (co-driver Ingrassia) and I are yet to win and, even though I won’t be fixated on a win this week, I would also love to stand on the top step of the podium in Argentina,” Ogier said.
“We know the win won’t be easy, but we have made a lot of progress this year and will certainly give it our best. The competition is strong, but if we can limit the time loss on Friday, which will be the key, I’m sure we’ll be in with a chance.”
As championship leader, Ogier starts first in Friday’s opening leg. If dry, he will sweep a line through loose gravel, conceding valuable time to later starters who will benefit from cleaner and faster roads.
Rain is forecast before the start, which would likely turn the conditions in Ogier’s favour.
More than a million fans are expected to pack the dirt speed tests, a mix of soft and sandy tracks and twisty rock-strewn roads high, which demand a blend of speed and endurance in the mountains of Cordoba province.
It is 16 years since Ogier’s M-Sport Ford team triumphed in Argentina but team principal Malcolm Wilson is backing him to end that barren run.
“They want to add this accolade to their long list of achievements and, knowing the form they’re in at the moment, they’re in with a chance of doing it. They won’t have an easy run opening the road on Friday, but they can never be discounted,” he said.
But those who would deny Ogier the chance to complete his bucket list are many. None may be more eager than his teammate Elfyn Evans, who missed a maiden victory in Argentina last year by a mere 0.7 seconds.
The winner was Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville, considered the driver most able to challenge Ogier but so far claimant to only one victory this season, in Sweden.
A strong challenge is expected from Toyota’s new recruit Ott Tänak, who despite not winning an event so far this season, has claimed more special stage victories than even Sebastien Ogier.
Citroën will have its regular line-up of Kris Meeke and Craig Breen, the latter returning from the bench after Sébastien Ogier took over his C3 car for the previous two rounds.
The French team will take rear suspension upgrades to Argentina, hoping to regain the form that delivered victory in 10 or the past 13 years, most recently with Meeke in 2015.
The rally starts in Villa Carlos Paz on Thursday night local time and drivers face 18 stages covering 360 kms before Sunday afternoon’s finish there.