Ogier penalty controversy prompts WRC format change calls

WRC drivers and teams want changes to how national events share the bill with the series after a controversial Rally Sweden that ended with Sebastien Ogier and M-Sport taking deliberate penalties.

Rally Sweden Historic followed the modern cars onto the stages and caused significant problems for the main WRC field on its second pass through the Friday and Saturday tests.

The historic and national cars were running narrower tyres and that, allied to the fact that most were rear-wheel drive, meant deep ruts were cut into the ice for the second run.

As first WRC driver on the road, Ogier found the situation particularly problematic and was a distant 12th by the end of Friday.

"The ruts are 20cm narrower than my car," said Ogier. "Even in a straight line I have to fight like hell to stay on the road.

"The feeling is horrible – in every corner there is no way I can load the car and I hit virtually every snowbank. I just put my front wheels in [the ruts] like everybody else, but the rear is in 10 or 15 centimetres of loose.

"Car after car after car you see the times are getting faster and faster and faster. It's a joke."

In a bid to salvage something from the weekend, Ogier started the Power Stage late to get better road conditions and went second-fastest - earning four bonus points.

He was given a 4m10s penalty for starting out of position, but M-Sport checked his teammate Elfyn Evans into the final time control sufficiently late to give the Welshman a penalty that elevated Ogier back to 10th overall for another point.

Ogier emphasised he was not blaming the national crews, saying: "They are here to enjoy their rally, but it's so difficult with the conditions on the second pass of the stages.

"It might have made a difference if we'd had a choice of tyres. Here we only have one tyre – it's the only event of the season where we don't have a choice.

"Even the Junior WRC cars have more choice than we do. They have two studs [a choice of 7mm or 8mm length]. That could have helped for us."

Toyota team principal Tommi Makinen, whose drivers Ott Tanak and Jari-Matti Latvala both tumbled down the order on day one, was adamant a format change is necesary.

"This needs to change," the four-time WRC champion said. "We cannot have these narrower cars doing this to the road.

"Why can't they run the national cars after the WRC has been through both times?"

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About this article
Series WRC
Event Rally Sweden
Drivers Sébastien Ogier
Teams M-Sport
Article type Breaking news