Ogier aims for Swedish WRC follow-up

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IOL mot feb6 Sebastien Ogier

AFP

Sebastien Ogier drives his VW Polo WRC during the shakedown of Rally Sweden 2014.

Karlstad, Sweden - World champion Sebastien Ogier is hoping history repeats itself when he takes to the wheel of his Volkswagen on the Rally of Sweden's classic snow-covered roads this week.

Ogier took the honours here 12 months ago after a tight tussle with Sebastien Loeb, the since retired nine-time champion.

Ogier prevailed over his illustrious French compatriot by less than a minute to give Volkswagen their first championship victory.

And the omens of a follow up appear positive after Ogier began the 2014 season with success in the opening rally in Monte Carlo.

“Rally Sweden is one of my favourite rallies on the calendar,” said Ogier.

“Last year, we claimed the first win for Volkswagen here, following a great duel with Sébastien Loeb.

“That was probably the best rally of my career so far. Like Loeb, we pushed ourselves to the very limit the entire time, and had to give 100 percent every minute.

VW ON TOP

“We are now the team that everyone wants to beat. It will definitely not be easy, but I would love to win here again.”

Ogier leads the fledgling championship standings by nine points from his compatriot Bryan Bouffier, in a Ford Focus, with Citroen's British driver Kris Meeke a further two points adrift in third.

Ford's Scandinavian driver Mikko Hirvonen retired from Monte Carlo but is upbeat about his prospects in Sweden.

“I'm really looking forward to Sweden where I think we can be competitive. We're certainly determined to show what we can do.

“It's one of those events where a driver needs to really attack, but in the narrow sections you also have to be very precise.

“There's a very narrow line that forms, and if you venture off that line you can easily find yourself in trouble.”

Norwegian driver Mads Ostberg has warned Ogier to expect a fight for victory in what he regards as almost a home rally.

“If everything goes well, I want to try and fight for the win.

“We'll have a lot of fans cheering us on alongside the roads. And although I am very focused on my racing line, I still notice our fans waving the Norwegian and Swedish flags!”

MEEKE UNSURE

For Meeke, this is a debut rally on snow, and he is unsure of what to expect.

“I know I'm quick on asphalt and gravel, but I have no real idea about how I'll manage on snow.

“It'll be down to me to learn about everything: the car, the tyres, and so on.

“Our rivals have a lot more experience than we do. They will undoubtedly go very fast. I'll just have to put that out of my mind so I can learn and progress at my own pace.

“And above all, avoid making any mistakes.”

Another snow debutant is Robert Kubica, the ex Formula One driver who switched to rallying after his horrific 2011 crash.

Sweden's frozen roads lined by banks of snow are a world away from the Pole's former natural habitat, and he conceded: “I don't know what to expect, but the snow-covered stages will certainly provide a new and exciting challenge.”

The Ford focus driver added: “Given my unfamiliarity of the surface, we know that this will be a difficult event.”

The rally gets underway late Wednesday with a super special and finishes on Saturday which features the Vargasen stage with Colin's Crest - an award for the longest jump, the record is 37 metres, in honour of the late world champion Colin McRae.

AFP


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