The Works Ford squad have gotten a little ambitious over the last couple days by announcing publicly their pursuit of Citroen ace Sebastian Ogier. The French driver who took his first WRC victory in Portugal by out gunning Citroen works phenom Sebastian Loeb, has announced that he is actually entertaining the idea.
The driving slot that would become available would be at the the factory Ford outfit along side Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala. Reports indicate that Ford have been in touch with Ogier’s management team and that a formal offer was made. Ogier has stated that his decision will be made by Rally Finland but for this weekend he is focused on Bulgaria. This now opens a silly season that could see massive landscape changes for 2011 across the board. Let’s try to hash some of this out here.
Ogier at Ford
If Sebastian Ogier goes to the factory Ford outfit, we then have Mikko, Jari-Matti, and Seb 2.0. Only two cars can score points. Ogier would have to be a favorite week in and week out to score as would Mikko. This would relegate Jari-Matti to a third car that does not score, or a Stobart drive in replacement of maybe Henning Solberg. Ford already has Matthew Wilson in a similar situation to Ogier as a development program driver, and Solberg has not performed overly well and struggled with some sponsorship early in the year. I could see Henning being released in favor of down checking JML. Both Stobart drivers could be retained, but with a probable only four cars at the start of the season, it is unlikely to happen. The Citroen camp would then have some questions of their own. You were slotted for three factory cars assuming Ogier stayed and now you have Loeb, Sordo, Petter and Kimi still on the list for a ride. There is your four cars that you already hate because you are being pushed to manufacture. There is a possibility however small, that Kimi could leave the WRC next year and join Renault. If that happens you have three drivers and the junior team could be dissolved, or bring the likes of a Kris Meeke into the picture who currently drives for Citroen’s sister Peugeot in the IRC. Could we see Petter in a factory seat and the relegation of Sordo? A lot of questions are yet to be answered, but just by my random mumblings above, you can clearly see that the move would shake up both camps pretty well. This announcement alone will see the WRC have a better silly season than F1!!! Not often we here about that.
I personally think that Ogier will stay at Citroen but will admit that I really fall more onto the middle of the argument. I could see it working both ways. Why would Ogier stay at Citroen to play second fiddle to Loeb? Next year is a fresh start with the teams and cars, will the DS3 S2000T be that much better than the Fiesta? What other manufacturers are going to join and how will that move drivers around? No doubt the news of this even being a potential of happening may change a lot of the faces and teams of more than just Ogier. Just goes to show that a young man with this kind of talent can send shock waves through a paddock. Keep it here at Open Paddock as we continue to bring you coverage of a rally silly season very few of us may have seen coming.