Sébastien Ogier carries an air of confidence into this week’s Corsica linea - Tour de Corse (28 - 31 March) as he aims to maintain Citroën’s remarkable WRC transformation at one of his happy hunting grounds.
The Frenchman was peerless on the tricky and technical asphalt 12 months ago. He led throughout to score his second win in three seasons in Corsica’s mountains en route to a sixth world title.
Having returned to Citroën Racing for 2019, the 35-year-old has breathed new life into the squad which finished bottom of the FIA World Rally Championship last year.
He has wins in Monte-Carlo and Mexico from the opening three rounds to sit four points behind leader Ott Tänak, and holds no fears about a new-look Corsican encounter in which almost 80 per cent of the roads have been altered from 2018.
“The route has been changed quite a lot again this year, but that has already happened before here, which has meant that I have often had to get to grips with new stages and that tends to suit me.
“It adds a bit of stress and adrenaline to the rally, and it can lead to there being bigger gaps than usual,” said Ogier.
New roads demand pin-point accuracy in making pace notes during reconnaissance. This is even more crucial in Corsica where a never-ending stream of twists and turns earned the event the nickname Rally of 10,000 Corners.
“When the stages are new for everyone, obviously the difference comes from who does a very good job during recce and then has sufficient confidence in their pace notes to push right from the word go,” Ogier added.
Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Tänak, the winner in Sweden, and nine-time champion Sebastien Loeb, back in the WRC with Hyundai Motorsport, will be snapping at Ogier’s heels.
“In the past Corsica was probably the rally on which I struggled the most, but we had good pace last year on our first time there in the Yaris World Rally Car,” said Tänak.
Unpredictable mountain weather is a hallmark of the rally, but drivers had a nasty surprise when they encountered snow during recce on Tuesday.
The rally starts in Porto-Vecchio on Thursday evening ahead of a day’s action across the south of the island on Friday. Attention switches to the north for the final two legs, and the event finishes in Calvi on Sunday afternoon after 14 speed tests covering almost 350km.