With nine World Rally Championship titles to his name, Sébastien Loeb is one of the best rally drivers ever to get behind the wheel. Get to know the man who rewrote the record books.
Rally Mexico (8-11 March) sees nine-time champion Sébastien Loeb return to the WRC. The Frenchman took a break from the FIA World Rally Championship after the 2012 season to compete in the Dakar Rally, World Touring Car Cup and FIA World Rallycross – and smash the record at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. But he’s back in the WRC fold this year with three races lined up in Mexico, Corsica and Spain.
The comeback is on
Not surprisingly Loeb is curious to discover how his pace compares to the WRC field when he makes his first competitive appearance on gravel since 2012. “I don’t know if I will be in the rhythm,” Loeb explained.
“For sure I know I will have a good position on the road and that will help me on the first day, but for the rest, it’s really difficult to make any plan. It’s too long since I’ve driven at this level of rallying: six years and I didn’t do a gravel rally. I am curious to know after the first stages how I am.”
Even so, Loeb managed to win the Rally Mexico six times in succession between 2006-12. But his success there is just the tip of the iceberg when you consider his many remarkable achievements.
Ahead of his return to Central America, scroll down to find out more about Loeb’s other triumphs.
Loeb was originally a gymnast before taking up rally driving
Loeb’s sporting prowess was apparent from an early age when he became a four-time champion in gymnastics in his home region of Alsace, France. After having won five gold medals at the French Gymnastics Championships by the time he was 15, Loeb swapped the exercise floor for the rally track and never looked back. After winning his first world championship in 2004 the former gymnast performed a backflip on the podium.
It’s too long since I’ve driven at this level of rallying – I am curious to know after the first stages [in Meixco] how I am
Loeb is a man of firsts
In 2004 Loeb became the first non-Nordic driver to win the snow-based Swedish Rally. In 2005, with victory in the ninth round in Argentina, Loeb became the first driver to win six consecutive rallies. Having already won the season-opening Monte Carlo Rally, he also became the first to win seven in a season, beating his own record of six wins.
Loeb was also the first driver to win every stage of a WRC rally with an emphatic victory in 2005’s Corsican rally. The records carried on tumbling. Loeb’s win at the 2010 Rally Germany was his eighth victory in a row there, marking a record for consecutive wins in a WRC event. He was also the first driver to win 10 rallies in a single season. Phew.
Sébastien Loeb and his career beyond WRC
Besides his success in rallying, Loeb has performed in a number of different driving disciplines. In 2006, he finished second overall in the Le Mans 24-hour race. (It’s rumoured he did some preparation for the race by running practice laps around the circuit on a PlayStation aboard a private jet.)
Loeb had F1 tests for Renault in 2007 and Red Bull the following year; he won X Games Gold in 2012 and the following year broke the record for the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb; he has participated in the Porsche Supercup; he’s raced and runs his own World Touring Car Championship team; and he races in the World Rallycross Championship with Team Peugeot-Hansen. All of that plus the Frenchman has competed in the Dakar Rally on three different occasions, winning stages and setting the pace in the world’s toughest rally.
Sébastien Loeb and his main rivals
In Loeb’s first full season in the WRC he won three events (Monte Carlo, Germany, San Remo) but was edged out of the overall winners’ place by Norway’s Petter Solberg, losing the championship to him by just one point. Subsequent championships saw Loeb tussle for supremacy with the man that he rates as his toughest opponent – Finland’s two-time world champion Marcus Gronholm.
Towards the end of his WRC career, Loeb has had to fend off the close attentions of both Mikko Hirvonen from Finland and his compatriot and former Citroën team-mate Sébastien Ogier, now a five-time champion in his own right. All eyes turn to Mexico this weekend to see how Loeb measures up on his return to WRC.
Source:Red Bull Content Pool