Sebastien Loeb says the work he and co-driver Daniel Elena have done since their Dakar Rally debut in 2016 has allowed them to run at the sharp end through the tougher stages of this year’s event.Loeb picked up a second stage win on this year’s Dakar in Friday’s Tupiza-Oruro stage, as he saw off Nani Roma and Stephane Peterhansel despite a minor navigational mistake late on.
While several leading contenders have lost major chunks of time to navigation in the event so far, Loeb has been relatively unaffected, although he did lose half an hour to engine woes on Thursday.
Asked if he felt he was reaping the rewards of his preparation for the race, Loeb told Motorsport.com: “For sure. Last year we wouldn’t be capable of doing this.
“I think Daniel improved a lot in the navigation, and we work much better together in the car – so for sure it helps a lot now.
“It gives us confidence to be able to win some stages with a lot of navigation, and to be, after some complicated stages, still in the fight for the lead, even with 25 minutes stopped in the stage with [engine] trouble.
“Yes, it gives us some confidence – but we also see that any driver, any co-driver can be lost in some place. We know anything is possible.”
Peterhansel: Leading “doesn’t mean anything”
Loeb currently lies second in the general classification, just over a minute behind Peugeot teammate Peterhansel, who dropped only 90 seconds to the nine-time WRC champion on Friday.
The reigning Dakar champion however says that leading at the halfway point of the event is “merely symbolic”, especially as the top four are split by just over five minutes.
“The stage was nice, technical, with a bit of mud,” said Peterhansel of Friday’s test. “Then, the navigation was tricky and everyone seemed to get lost.
“Cyril [Despres] and I did, too, but we didn’t lose too much time with our mistakes. Nothing disastrous, it’s getting quite close at the front.
“It’s only the fifth day of the race, and there have already been four different leaders, always with a small gap. It’s merely symbolic to lead the Dakar at this stage, it doesn’t mean anything.”