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Six-time World Rally Champion, Sébastien Ogier, discusses his special relationship with Rallye Monte-Carlo. His co-driver, Julien Ingrassia, recalls their first appearance at Monte-Carlo in 2009.

THE MONTE-CARLO NOTEBOOK BY SÉBASTIEN OGIER

What’s your favourite stage?
“In the past, I’ve really enjoyed Col du Perty / Col Saint Jean. Although it’s not being run in its usual configuration this year, the test that finishes in Laborel, which last year was held in heavy rain, should be a fantastic stage.”

What about your favourite memory?
“That’s a tough question, because I have so many good memories here. I think, however, I would say the first time I won the rally in 2009, because it was my first major international win.”

And your worst memory?
“That would be in 2012, with the S2000. We were on course to finish sixth overall, a fairly exceptional performance up against the WRCs, but we pushed a bit too hard and our rally ended prematurely after a huge crash.”

Which “spectator spot” would you recommend?
“Provided you stay within the authorised areas and follow the instructions of the stewards, I would suggest the St Léger les Mélèzes stage as the finish is always nice. There are some really fast and spectacular stretches during that part of the rally because generally speaking, the drivers enter that section with studded snow tyres, but the stage itself is invariably pretty dry.”

Which part of the rally do you prefer most?
“My favourite part is when we drive onto the final podium in front of the Palais Princier. Monte-Carlo has a very special atmosphere as it is the opening rally of the championship. As it’s such a tough race, it often feels a relief just to make it to the end, so to win it is even more special. Having said that, it’s still the feeling in the car that is the most enjoyable. This is especially true when you start a stage knowing you have the right tyres to get the most out of your car, because it’s not always the case.”

Do you prefer it when the road is wet, damp, icy or covered in snow?
“I like there to be a bit of mix when there are changes in grip levels and you have to adjust your pace, because that’s when you can really make a difference.”

CITROËN SECRETS

Whilst competing for Citroën Racing in the WRC, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia made their first appearance at Monte-Carlo in 2009, when the rally was part of the IRC, in a Peugeot 207 S2000. It proved to be a very successful one-off outing, as Julien Ingrassia recalls.

“We had been selected by BFGoodrich to take part in our home round of the IRC. We had just been crowned Junior World Rally Champions, but we were still in the early stages of our career. We initially decided to focus on consistency, before gradually upping our pace and claiming our only stage win of the weekend on the snow-covered roads on Montauban sur l’Ouvèze – Eygalayes.

That stage win moved us into the overall lead. We had overtaken Freddy Loix, side by side, as we started to climb the Col Saint Jean, just after the village of Laborel, which you don’t see very often in rallying. We still had to get over the famous Col de Turini at night and I can still remember the feeling when we realised in the dark at Lucéram that we had claimed our first international win.

It was only much later that I was really able to savour the moment though, as it hit me that a year or two earlier, I was still just a fan with my friends, sleeping in the car at night on these same stages.”

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