Rally Australia at Coffs Harbour in a fortnight will be the farewell for Volkswagen after its shock withdrawal from the WRC this week after four years of domination, but its French four-time world champion Sebastien Ogier has declared it’s not the end of his career.
“Don’t worry about me, we (sic) gonna see us again!!!” Ogier has tweeted.
Citroen, the French manufacturer for which Ogier and his co-driver and countryman Julien Ingrassia scored the first seven of their 37 WRC rally victories, already has contracted three drivers – Northern Irishman Kris Meeke, 37, Irishman Craig Breen, 26, and Frenchman Stephane Lefebvre, 24 – for its full-time return with its C3 under next year’s new rules.
Citroen team principal Yves Matton said he would be interested to talk to Ogier, but won’t be tipping out any of that trio to make way for him.
“If Sebastien Ogier gives me a call I will answer and we will have a chat, but there’s no question about changing my driver line-up for next season,” Matton said.
“We took the decision to develop young drivers, but when you have a four-time world champion [who is still only 32] this can be interesting.
“[But] there is no idea in this team to change the driver line-up we have made.”
As Hyundai also has three contracted drivers – Belgian Thierry Neuville, New Zealander Hayden Paddon and Spaniard Dani Sordo – the best new home for Ogier (unless a deal is struck for him to privately campaign a new VW) could be Toyota, which is coming back to the WRC for the first time this century.
The Japanese company’s team, headed by Finnish four-time world champion Tommi Makinen, has announced only one driver so far – 35-year-old Finn Juho Hanninen, who has done the bulk of the testing of its Yaris. Another driver announcement has been expected after Rally Oz.
Ogier’s teammates – Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen, 27, and Finn Jari-Matti Latvala, 31 – also are on the market after VW’s pull-out.
Citroen’s Matton said that he would accept calls from that pair too, but it would only be for polite chat. “They are not French and they don’t have the world title,” he said.