Retiring Ogier lays down marker in new hybrid rally era

French driver Sebastien Ogier speaks during a press conference

French driver Sebastien Ogier speaks during a press conference on the eve of the start of the 90th World Rally Championship Monte-Carlo Rally, on January 19, 2022, in Monaco.

Photo credit: Valery Hache | AFP

What you need to know:

  • Retiring eight-time champion Sebastien Ogier threw down the Rally1 era gauntlet, the Frenchman winning the shakedown run, edging out rival Sebastien Loeb who is fresh from a second place finish at the Dakar Rally
  • WRC Safari Rally Chief Executive officer Phineas Kimathi arrived in the principality Thursday in time to witness the rollout of the new hybrid technology
  • Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed is expected here this weekend to cement the Safari Rally’s place on the WRC calendar with signing of an extension in the series expected

In Monaco

A new era dawned on motor rallying Thursday night when the new hybrid Rally1 cars rolled off the ramp for the first time as the Monte Carlo Rally kicked off the 2022 World Rally Championship season.

And none other than retiring eight-time champion Sebastien Ogier threw down the Rally1 era gauntlet, the Frenchman winning the shakedown run, edging out rival Sebastien Loeb who is fresh from a second place finish at the Dakar Rally.

Kenya’s June 23-26 Safari Rally will be an integral stop in this year’s championship and WRC Safari Rally Chief Executive officer Phineas Kimathi arrived in the principality Thursday in time to witness the rollout of the new hybrid technology.

“Any form of upgrade in life is great. We are looking forward to welcoming the new generation rally cars to our sport,” Kimathi said at the parc ferme, located at the world famous, refurbished, wickedly affluent Monte Carlo Casino.

“The introduction of the hybrid car will spice up the World Rally Championship,” Kimathi added.

Basically speaking, the new hybrid technology introduced this year by the International Auto Federation, blends a 100kW electric motor engine blended with a 1.6-litre, turbo-charged petrol engine. Moral of the story is to reduce harmful emissions and to be environmentally friendly.

GR Yaris-driving Ogier, also winner of the WRC comeback Safari Rally last year, and navigated by new man Benjamin Veillas following the retirement of his long-time navigator Julien Ingrassia, reigned supreme at the short, narrow 2.29-kilometer shakedown stage at Sainte-Agnes/Peille mountains, clocking one minute, 50.4 seconds from his third run.

Loeb, driving for Ford M-Sport, also has a new co-driver, Isabelle Galmiche, and hasn’t been on the WRC circuit since racing for Hyundai in Turkey in the 2020 season.

The pair had set the early marker, clocking 1:53.9 in their first run the the Puma cockpit, and then improved to 1:50.9, falling just five seconds outside Ogier.

“Generally the car was working well. It wasn’t really a representative shakedown, it’s not the same character as we are going to have later on,” Ogier told WRC.

“So it’s not easy to be sure that it’s fine for tonight, but at least we could check that the car is running well,” he added ahead of last night’s two opening competitive sections of the rally that features both day and night stages.

Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed is expected here this weekend to cement the Safari Rally’s place on the WRC calendar with signing of an extension in the series expected.

Leading times at the Monte Carlo Rally shakedown on Thursday:

1. Sebastien Ogier (Toyota GR Yaris) One minute, 50.4 seconds,

2. Sebastien Loeb (Ford Puma) +05 seconds behind,

3. Elfyn Evans (Toyota GR Yaris) +1.0,

4. Thierry Neuville (Hyundai i20N) +1.8,

5. Adrien Fourmaux (Ford Puma) +2.6,

6. Gus Greensmith (Ford Puma) +2.7,

7. Craig Breen (Ford Puma) +3.0,

8. Takamoto Katsutsa (Toyota GR Yaris) +3.8,

9. Kalle Rovanpera (Toyota GR Yaris) +3.9,

10. Ott Tanak (Hyundai i20N) +3.9.

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