The eight-time world rally champion veered off the road in stage 14 in desperately wet conditions, while holding a 4.3s lead over Hyundai’s Esapekka Lappi.

Ogier has taken an 18.2s lead into Saturday’s afternoon stages where the rally began to slowly unravel.

The Frenchman damaged the radiator of his GR Yaris in the same water splash that caused his Toyota team-mate Takamoto Katsuta to retire from the rally.

Ogier was then forced to make a roadside repair after stage 12, before losing even more time in a water splash on stage 13, after taking an extremely cautious approach to protect the car.

Heading into stage 14, Ogier held a 4.3s margin over Lappi but a slow puncture alarm prompted Ogier and co-driver Vincent Landais to make a swift wheel change on the roadside before the start.

Ogier says it was this frantic moment that ultimately led to his foot slipping off the brake pedal at a crucial moment 1.4 kilometres into the stage.   

“It was an eventful afternoon for us, unfortunately. Obviously, it all started in this water splash with the issue damaging the radiator," said Ogier. 

Sébastien Ogier, Vincent Landais, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

“It is frustrating because I took it easier than the morning to be safe, but it looks like we have an issue in the team to fix as three cars had a problem like that today. It is not really normal.   

“But then it was a big fight all afternoon to save and fix the leak in the radiator and try to carry on.

“We were already on a muddy road [before stage 14] and I had one minute to change the wheel and we managed to check in having used 58 seconds of that minute before we got a penalty. 

“There was a lot of mud on everything and on my foot and it was a stupid mistake because when I hit the brake for this corner my foot slipped off the pedal so I didn’t brake. 

“It got stuck somehow between the clutch pedal and the brake. We moved it and braked again but I locked the wheel and we stopped one metre too late into the ditch, and we couldn’t reverse any more. 

“I was exhausted and was nearly passing out after as I didn’t have anything to drink as I used all my water to my car. There was no reward for our effort but that is the way it is. 

“I wasn’t thinking about the fight [for the win] at this moment The fight was against fixing my car and making it through. I feel quite unlucky but that’s rallying.”

Esapekka Lappi, Janne Ferm, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

Lappi, who was next into the stage after Ogier, backed off upon hearing the news of the Toyota driver’s exit. 

As a result, he slipped behind Hyundai team-mate Thierry Neuville, who attacked the stage unaware of what had occurred behind.   

Neuville will head into Sunday’s final four stages equipped with a 36.4s lead.

2023-06-03T19:58:54Z dg43tfdfdgfd