Photo: Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool
Seven-time world rally champion, Frenchman Sébastien Ogier is the winner of the first edition of the Croatia Rally.
Since 2004, rally has been a race in which the French always win, to paraphrase Gary Lineker’s legendary statement made when England footballers lost the World Cup semi-finals. Apart from 2019, when the title was won by Estonian Ott Tänak, 16 of the last 17 world titles went to drivers named Sébastien. The ‘French Revolution’ was started by Sébastien Loeb, who won nine titles in a row, and was continued by Sébastien Ogier.
For the first time, the royal discipline of motor sport was hosted by Croatia in April 2021, and the first winner of the Croatia Rally became – you guessed it – Sébastien Ogier. In an intense and a nail-biting finish, the Frenchman won the Croatian Rally with a whopping 0.6 seconds ahead of Elfyn Evans, his teammate in Toyota, after three days of spectacular action taking place on roads in the stunning countryside of Karlovac, Krapina-Zagorje, and Zagreb counties as well as in the City of Zagreb.
– It looks like it really went close, up to the last metres. Maybe the last mistake from Elfyn handed us the win, but over the weekend the whole team has done an amazing job. The finish was very close, but there can only be one winner. Of course, the emotion for us now is super-strong. This weekend in Croatia has been a crazy rollercoaster for us, between the puncture and the issue just before the start of the last day of the rally. I was glad to still be in the race, honestly. I guess we do this sport for these emotions, said Ogier following the win in Croatia, the 51st in his successful career.
Determined, ruthless and tactically astute, with a presence of mind of a surgeon and reflexes of a cobra, 38-year-old Sébastien Ogier was bitten by a racing bug at an early age. His father was a big fan of the late Ayrton Senna, and his uncle was an autocross driver, so little Seb first did laps in go-karts and then crossed to rallying. He won the 2005 FFSA’s Rallye Jeunes, a talent spotting event, which secured him a driving seat in the Peugeot 206 Cup, where he won the French championship within two years.
As early as 2008, in his world championship debut, he clinched the Junior World Rally Champion title, and the following year he was offered a place among the big boys – in a real WRC car. Since 2013, he has been the undisputed ruler of rally racing, except for the already mentioned Tänak’s win in 2019. A total of seven titles in three different cars scored him the epithet of one of the best drivers of all time and the title of King of Monte Carlo, the rally where he has won a record eight times in five different cars.