We were still a few months short of the infamous Rally Germany meltdown, but Sébastiens Loeb and Ogier had locked horns a few times before arriving at the start of the Guanajuatito stage on Sunday March 6, 11 years ago.
That Rally México Sunday of 2011 is reckoned to have added another handful of spice to a rivalry which was warming up nicely.
Running in the same team (Ogier’s full-time elevation from the Citroën Junior squad had been confirmed at the top of ’11), the younger of the two Frenchmen was very keen to establish himself as a challenger to the then seven-time world champion.
A gearbox issue on Saturday had caused Loeb to take a 50-second penalty to fix the problem, leaving him 10s behind Ogier going into the final day.
With their nearest challenger – Ford’s Mikko Hirvonen – 1m20s further back, Citroën team principal Olivier Quesnel had made it clear he wanted a DS3 WRC 1-2 at the finish.
It’s probably fair to say Quesnel hadn’t found it easy to follow in the footsteps of the Versailles team’s legendary leader Guy Fréquelin. Fréquelin and Loeb were a force to be reckoned with. Quesnel and Loeb less so.
Anyway, back to the beginning of Sunday morning’s opener.
Loeb and Ogier chatted ahead of the stage and the former made clear his plans. Those plans didn’t necessarily include carting home the trophy for second place. He wanted the winner’s cowboy boots.
Did that destabilize Ogier? He says not.
Regardless, he still ran wide, hit a rock and retired.
Loeb had no interest in gloating, but there was a message at the end of the stage.
“I am sorry for him,” said Loeb. “I know it is not nice to end the rally like this, he did not deserve this – he has driven a very good rally. He was very strong and this is not so good for the team, but this can happen when you have two drivers in the fight in the same team.”
Quesnel’s response was direct, but still vaguely supportive.
“It was stupid,” said the boss at the time, “but it’s done. Now we move on. I am disappointed for him, it hurts him in the drivers’ championship.”
That win was Loeb’s fifth Méxican success on the bounce, but it was also the beginning of some real needle between the pair.
The end of the needle? The end of the season, when Ogier and Quesnel both departed Citroën.