M-Sport boss Malcolm Wilson has likened his new World Championship rally recruit, Sebastien Ogier, to the great Carlos Sainz.
Ogier ended a five-year drought for the M-Sport team when he won the season-opening Monte Carlo Rally last month.
The four-times WRC champion was snapped up by Wilson after Volkswagen’s decision to terminate its involvement with its all-conquering Polo R machines.
Sainz, who won WRC titles for Toyota in 1990 and 1992 went on to drive for Wilson several years later.
“Now that I’ve worked with the guy (Ogier), it is very easy to see why he is four-times World Champion,” Wilson told Speedcafe.com, who has fielded a host of stars over the years including Colin McRae and Marcus Gronholm.
“He reminds me very much of Carlos Sainz. All the little bits of detail and pushing everybody in the team.
“Of anybody that I’ve ever had he is most like Sainz.”
Wilson also gave some insight into how the seed was first sown with Ogier, pre-emptively before Volkswagen’s announcement to terminate its WRC program.
“We did a forum on Rally GB (late October last year) before the event and Seb and I were both on together,” Wilson recounted.
“He mentioned that he nearly came to drive for us in 2010 and then he said; ‘who knows what might happen in the future’.
“But a lot of people latched onto it even before Volkswagen said they were going to withdraw.
“After that we communicated with a couple of text messages.
“I said; ‘as far as I’m concerned the most important thing first and foremost is I want you to drive our car’.
“And if you are happy with the car then we can start to negotiate.
“I felt very confident we had a great car so I wasn’t too concerned but on the other hand it was great for me to get his feedback.
“And he was happy with the car.
“So then negotiations started and it was a case of a quite a few weeks of negotiations with Red Bull and Seb.”
Heading into the second round of the WRC in Sweden this weekend, Wilson suggests that under the sweeping new 2017 changes to the cars, there will not be a repeat of VW’s domination.
“There is not going to be a total domination like VW,” he said.
“No disrespect to what they did over the last four years going bang, bang, bang, bang.
“My feeling is that we will go to every rally with a chance of winning but we are not necessarily going to win.
“Certainly with Ogier on board I know we have a chance of winning at every rally.
“At some point most people are going to have some small reliability issues and that’s my biggest fear.
“You can do all the testing in the world but it will be some silly little thing that can catch you out.”
Wilson is also excited about the prospects of Ogier’s team-mate, the hugely talented Ott Tanak of closing in on a breakthrough victory.
“I think Ott is ready for it. We are definitely in for an exciting season,” Wilson said.
While Ford performance boss David Pericak made his first WRC appearance at Monte Carlo last month, Wilson said no formal discussions had taken place in the hope the blue oval maker returns to factory backing.
“We didn’t have any formal discussions,” Wilson said.
“He (Pericak) had never been to a WRC event before so to let him see and understand the interest and the following can’t be a bad thing.
“If anything does happen it’s not going to happen this year because they are fully committed to their GT program.
“I just hope he went away with a positive feeling which I think he did.”