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Ogier moving on but drivers' title remains focus

 

By Sammy Hamill

Sebastien Ogier may be leaving to take the place of Kris Meeke at Citroën but the boss of his current M-Sport Ford team says they will do everything in their power to ensure he bows out as a six-time champion.

Ogier leads the WRC heading into this weekend's final round, Rally Australia, by three points over Hyundai's Thierry Neuville, with Toyota driver Ott Tanak a further 20 points back.

Even though Ford are still in contention for back-to-back manufacturers' championships, M-Sport's Malcolm Wilson, a former Ulster Rally winner, says Ogier is their priority.

"We're putting every resource we have into keeping the drivers' championship. That's where all of our efforts are focused now."

But Ogier's potential success will bring mixed feelings for M-Sport as the Frenchman departs for Citroen in 2019. His exit is a blow to M-Sport, but Wilson says he is in awe of Ogier's time with his team.

"I've never seen such mental strength or an approach that's so incredibly complete in every single direction," said Wilson.

"He and Julien (Ingrassia, co-driver) do everything to get every bit of performance they can. One thing is for sure, we will really miss him."

Rally Australia's title showdown will have three drivers in pursuit of the crown for the first time since Petter Solberg, Sebastien Loeb and Carlos Sainz went head-to-head in 2003.

But Wilson argues this year's title chase is the best ever. "It has been incredible - what a way for us to end our time with Sebastien and Julien Ingrassia."

And as Ogier prepares to return to Citroën to partner Esapekka Lappi, Craig Breen's future remains uncertain. This weekend may be the last time he and Mads Ostberg line up for the French team.

The two-time Circuit of Ireland winner has said he is confident he will be back in the WRC next season but has given little indication with which team.

The most likely opportunity rests with M-Sport, but there have been suggestions he could remain at Citroën to share a part programme with Sebastien Loeb.

Belfast Telegraph

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