WORLD Champion Sebastien Ogier is “absolutely convinced” he will retain the drivers’ crown at this weekend’s penultimate round of the FIA World Rally Championship in Spain.
The Volkswagen driver needs to score just one point more than teammate Jari-Matti Latvala at the mixed-surface RallyRACC Rally de España, starting tomorrow, to defend the title he won for the first time last year, WRC.com reports.
After winning Coates Hire Rally Australia last month, Ogier missed the opportunity to seal the championship in the following round in France when mechanical problems in his Volkswagen Polo R were compounded by a time penalty.
Latvala won to reduce the gap to 27 points, with Spain and Wales Rally GB remaining. A driver can claim a maximum 28 points from each event.
“We had a hapless time at our home rally in France,” Ogier said.
“We have a lot to atone for, so I’m even more motivated to do well in Spain. Julien (co-driver Ingrassia) and I had the opportunity to defend our title in France, but unfortunately it didn’t work out that way.
“However, I’m absolutely convinced that we will defend our title in Spain. We won in Spain last year and I feel fantastic. I have been doing a lot of exercise and am top fit.”
Should Latvala finish ahead of Ogier, the championship will be decided in Wales. But the Finn knows only a victory will realistically suffice and he has never claimed back-to-back wins.
“I’ve never been in this situation with two rallies to go and as long as I still have a chance I will keep on fighting,” Latvala said.
“The characteristics of the route suit me. I like the rally and we have a good set-up for gravel and asphalt, with which I’m very comfortable.”
Ogier must open the road on Friday’s dusty gravel leg and that could help Latvala, even though he starts just one position behind.
“The surface is relatively hard on the gravel stages, but is covered by a fine layer of loose gravel. The road sweeper effect is particularly potent here. That could give me a slight advantage. On the other hand, the dust in the air could impair my vision.”
The same duel thrilled Spanish fans 12 months ago. Latvala led after the opening two days on asphalt, only to see his lead melt away on the final leg as he swept the gravel, allowing Ogier to climb from fourth to first.