Sebastien Ogier managed to defend his WRC crown, but it definitely wasn’t easy. Unlike Formula 1, World Rally Championship consists of not that many rallies, so every mistake and every point lost is more expensive in the end. Despite that, Ogier managed to secure title number two before the season finale in Wales. However, things looked quite dramatic for him and co-driver Julien Ingrassia after sudden dip in form (and results) enabled Jari-Matti Latvala to close in. Jari-Matti had one hell of a season (in a very positive way), largely thanks to more elaborate preparation, both technical, physical and mental. He never denied the fact that his mind was, at times, his worst enemy – when he finally realized that this needs fixing, he turned to experts and we ended up with JML v2.0; fast, consistent, stable. And while it looked like only Jari-Matti had some “internal issues” to solve, it turns out he wasn’t the only one suffering from lack of proper focus.
In an interview after confirming a second title, Ogier admitted he also had some issues during the season, and when he lost focus and direction in his head, it reflected negatively on his performance on stages. Suddenly, mentally rebooted, Latvala was in command while Ogier struggled to find motivation, or rather, searched for a way to regain control and speed. For Jari-Matti, mental issues usually concerned him thinking too much about the past, about things he couldn’t change anymore, instead of focusing on present. On the other hand, for Ogier, situation was completely opposite. He said he became too worried about the future of the sport (!?), and that caused his mid-season crisis.
“I had some difficult moments this season. I was a bit weak mentally, I was too much disturbed by the future of the sport, and my motivation really went down,” he said. “When this happens, you are not performing at 100 per cent any more. Even if some people say it looks easy, it is never easy. If there is a small moment of distraction and you don’t fight as normal, then things start to go in the wrong direction.”
“The most important thing is that I reacted. A lot of people helped me with this, the team helped me, Jost (Capito, VW Motorsport team principal) helped me and my wife helped me a lot. I managed to focus on the present; I couldn’t lose what I had been working on from the beginning of season. It would have been stupid to lose it like that. I had to finish the job.”
It is actually nice and encouraging to see and hear drivers are also interested in the future of their sport, unlike others who simply dismiss any discussion by saying “it’s politics, I don’t do that, I drive”. But what was Ogier worried about exactly? Was he just doing his corporate duty, chiming in to declare his doubts about the shootout-less future, thus supporting team’s boss, Capito? I am not exactly sure, maybe. Perhaps our Champ was more interested in another thing, though. Next year, WRC will, most likely, switch to a bit different starting order format, and Ogier is a very loud critic of this particular idea, which would see him in a less favourable starting positions more often than this year. On the other hand, maybe Ogier has other doubts and fears, concerning the future, but either way, it’s a bit surreal to hear a reigning champion almost losing his stuff over future of the sport. He is either faking it or he loves WRC more than he loves his wife. And he loves her very much!
Anyway, whatever it was, Ogier can now safely return to his worrying antics, because title race is over. Come on, promoters, give us some good news and a promise of a solid future, before our champions become to distracted to even drive!