January 6, 2023

Toyota confirms Ogier WEC outing discussions

Ogier has confirmed he won’t contest a full season in WRC next year, as the series begins its new hybrid era, and is eyeing opportunities in circuit racing with WEC and the Le Mans 24 Hours top of the list.

The Frenchman flagged earlier this year that whatever happens in 2022 he would like to remain within the Toyota team in some guise.

He could contest a half WRC season or run as few as two rallies for the Japanese brand and dovetail a partial campaign with outings in other forms of motorsport.

Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe technical director Pascal Vasselon has confirmed to Motorsport.com that Ogier has undergone sessions in the outfit’s simulator and talks are ongoing, but there is “no fixed plan” regarding any outings in Toyota’s Le Mans Hypercar.

“It is something that is in discussion. There is no fixed plan at the moment; it is just something we are looking at,” Vasselon told Motorsport.com.

“He is interested in driving our car and I understand why he would want to drive our Le Mans Hypercar. He has already done some simulator sessions.

“We have put our WEC drivers in rally cars on team-building events, but we’ve never had a rally driver in one of our prototypes, so it would be quite interesting, I think.”

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While competing in WEC is outside of Ogier’s comfort zone, the 37-year-old has racked up several circuit racing outings during his career.

Ogier has contested Porsche Super Cup events in 2013 and 2014 and raced as a Red Bull Ring wildcard in the DTM back in 2018, finishing 12th and 16th in the two races.

He also tested a 2011 Red Bull Formula 1 car at the Red Bull Ring in 2017.

Should Ogier’s ultimate wish come to fruition he wouldn’t be the only rally driver to tackle the Le Mans 24 Hours.

Nine-time World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb finished second overall in 2006 for Pescarolo Sport, while 1995 champion Colin McRae was third in the GTS class in 2004, driving a Prodrive-built Ferrari 550 GTS Maranello.

Speaking prior to Rally Estonia this week, Ogier admitted his 2022 plans are still yet to be confirmed but revealed that he is hopeful of testing Toyota’s WEC Hypercar, and those results could help determine his schedule.

“At the moment I’m still waiting to see what is going to fall in place regarding my switch to maybe the WEC that is my wish you know that,” said Ogier, when asked by Motorsport.com if the recent partial WRC calendar release had helped his future planning.

“Nothing is decided yet. I have some work [to do] and am going to have a [WEC] test at some point to see what I can do with this car and after that maybe I will be able to decide if I do some rally and how many, but at the moment you all have to be patient to hear about my 2022 year.

“The priority for me next year is not motorsport for me, that will remain.”

Ogier’s expected decision to run only a part WRC campaign leaves Toyota searching for a driver to share its third car, with former Toyota, Citroen and M-Sport Ford driver Esapekka Lappi and current M-Sport Ford pilot Teemu Suninen among the leading candidates.

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