Nine-time world rally champion Sébastien Loeb had his first test in the brand new Citroën C-Elisée WTCC car last week.
Tue 30.07.13, 1:01PM
That was your first outing with a proper WTCC, how much did you find it different from the modified WRC car you have tested before?
“Not that different. I had a good felling with the WRC modified car. And finally when we tested for the first time the real WTCC car I was already at ease with it. Obviously I found it a lot better, as the team has improved a lot of little things. I was quite surprised and happy with, the handling and balance.”
You and the team face a several months approach to racing. In 2011, when the new 1.6L turbo engine was introduced, Chevrolet completed 5000 km of testing before the season. Have you drafted a detailed planning of the amount of testing you will do?
“I don’t know exactly what is the plan. For sure we will make enough testing. I don’t know if this will be 5000 km. After all we must consider that Citroën is already working on the 1.6L turbo engine since a few years in rally. Now it’s a bit different and more powerful because of the new regulations, but the basis is the same.”
You already proved competitive on the racetrack, though most of your experiences have always been in endurance races. WTCC is different, like a 100 metre dash compared to marathon. Do you rate yourself more a sprinter or a marathon man?
“I had a few experiences with GT cars and in the Porsche Supercup. It is true that I have mostly raced in endurance, but I definitely prefer the sprint races.”
Looking at the format of WTCC events, track time is very limited. Does this worry you?
“It would be difficult for me to learn a racetrack in the free practice. We are currently trying to find the best way to test and build up experience, as the team and myself are starting from scratch in WTCC. We don’t know many of the tracks where the championship is racing and we want to learn. I hope we will be able to test on some of the usual WTCC circuits before the beginning of the season.”
Are you already watching WTCC races on TV and studying your future rivals?
“Frankly I had not much time to do it so far. Very rarely I find myself at home and watching TV. But every time I can I do it. There are many excellent drivers in WTCC and I already know some of them, but of course I will know them better the moment I will be racing with them...”
You won nine consecutive WRC championships and became the most successful rally driver ever. A lot of people worldwide will expect you to be on top in WTCC as well. Do you feel this pressure?
“I know that many people expect me to win in WTCC just because I have won so much in rally. However, at this level switching is not an easy task and the case of Kimi Raikkonen is the perfect example: he switched to rally and was not able to win, then came back to F1 and was a winner again. For sure it’s a big change for me, but I am doing it with the will to be competitive. I will do my best and I don’t know how much it will take. It will be difficult to be on top from the beginning, because for the time being I have the same racing experience a guy like Yvan Muller had when he was a teen ager...”
What was the reaction of your long-time rally co-driver Daniel Elena when you told him that there is no place for him in the WTCC car?
“Well, he knew that! Jokes apart, we have spoken about it for a long time and he is not too disappointed. I think that, if he wanted, there might be a place for him in the Citroën Racing WTCC team, but he also has discovered a new passion. Now he plays pétanque, a kind of bowls game that is very popular in the South of France.”