As Sébastien Loeb prepares for his last appearance in the FIA World Rally Championship, FIA.com looks back on a record-shattering career
Mon 30.09.13, 3:03PM
This weekend, Sébastien Loeb will be waving goodbye to the FIA World Rally Championship, using the Rallye de France Alsace to bring down the curtains on what has been the most successful career in WRC history.
It is a sign of Loeb’s talent that, despite taking part in only three FIA World Rally Championship events in his farewell season, the sometime Citroën driver lies seventh in the championship standings going in to Rallye de France Alsace, with wins in both Monte Carlo and Argentina, and second place in Sweden.
But this last career appearance is not simply about collecting points, adding to an already impressive tally. It is Sébastien Loeb’s farewell to the WRC, his last hurrah in a championship he has dominated for the best part of a decade. It will be an emotional departure, with the Frenchman driving a route that will see his WRC career come to an end on the streets of Haguenau, his birthplace.
It was in 2010, during the first running of the Rallye de France Alsace, that Loeb secured his 60th WRC victory on the streets of Haguenau, claiming his seventh consecutive world title in the process. In 12 appearances at the Rallye de France since 1999, Loeb has claimed six wins and a second-place finish, all of them with Citroën. But while the Frenchman has won the Rallye de France Alsace during two of his three attempts, the 2011 event saw Loeb retire with an engine problem.
Loeb’s talent was evident from the very beginning of his rallying career, when he came close to winning the drivers’ title in his first full season in the WRC. From 2004 onwards, when the Frenchman claimed his first title, the World Rally Championship was Loeb’s playground: nine consecutive titles, 78 world rally victories, 116 podiums, and 896 stage wins. His 2006 title came about despite a shoulder injury that prevented him from taking part in the last four rounds of the season.
In his early WRC career, Loeb was thought to be a specialist on tarmac. But as he progressed, the Citroën driver proved himself to be more than capable of handling any surface the event organisers could throw at him. In 2004, Loeb became the first non-Nordic driver to win the snow-based Rally Sweden, before going on to collect a series of tarmac victories.
Over the years, Loeb collected as many records as he won rallies: at the 2005 Tour de Corse, he became the first driver to win every stage of a WRC event. That same year Loeb became the first to log six consecutive victories in a season, and the first to win seven events in a season, a record he has since broken, claiming nine in 2012, on his way to his ninth title.
But one number that has remained the same for the duration of Loeb’s WRC career is the number of co-drivers he has worked with: one, Daniel Elena. The Loeb-Elena partnership is the best-known and most successful in WRC history, with the two men working together to achieve victory at 23 different World Championship rallies over the years.
“WRC has been my life for over a decade and it’s time to say ‘au revoir’”, said Sébastien. “I cannot be sad, as if I look back I think Daniel and I can be proud of what we have achieved with Citroën. We have travelled the world together, met great people, and fought with determined opponents on the most beautiful roads on the planet! In a few words it was a lot of fun, especially with Daniel in the car. Sharing so little space with someone for so many years, you don’t need to talk to understand each other. But he and I stayed the same I think: two guys passionate with rallying and racing in all forms. That was our fuel on a day-to-day basis. It’s now time to look at other challenges and I hope we can do well there too. A bientôt.”