Saluting Sebastien Loeb: Loeb the man
In the film The Usual Suspects we're told that the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he didn't exist. It's not so different for Sebastien Loeb.
At least 99 per cent of the time, the most successful rally driver the history of the sport is invisible. He’s the first to admit that his life outside of the FIA World Rally Championship is “unremarkable”. Even his white-painted house in a village just outside Geneva, on the shores of the famous lake, is comparatively modest - especially by millionaire sportsman standards.
It’s only when you peek inside the garage that you maybe get a clue as to the owner’s interests. As well as the expected fleet of Citroen company cars, there is a fair amount of exotica: Sebastien has owned a Porsche 911 GT3 and Lamborghini Gallardo in the past; he likes to chop and change his cars quite often. The other indulgence is his helicopter, a passion passed onto him by his former boss Guy Frequelin.
But apart from the toys and an increasing reliance on modern technology (he’s been described by a friend as ‘half man, half phone’), Sebastien’s essential lifestyle hasn’t changed that much from 15 years ago.
He still hangs out with the same friends - most of whom were at Rallye de France Alsace last week to watch him lift his ninth world crown. He admits to sometimes spending too much time on his PlayStation, and his idea of a perfect evening is just staying in with friends - not paragliding down the Andes, or whatever else you might reasonably expect a multiple world champion to be doing in his spare time.
The 38-year-old’s tastes are relatively simple: his favourite meal is rib of beef (rare, naturally) washed down with good French wine. In fact, Sebastien is a quiet expert on viticulture: don’t be too surprised if you see ‘Chateau Loeb’ wine on sale at some point in the future.
He’s got a full-size snooker table at home, in the same room where he keeps all his trophies, but there are so many of them now that they’re proving hard to fit in.
He confesses that his biggest vice is sleeping - and this something that he’s become remarkably good at, being able to sleep pretty much anywhere and at any time. That’s an even more remarkable achievement given that his other well-known indulgence is enough espresso to keep most people wired for days.
But his life changed considerably when his daughter Valentine was born: he describes her as the person who makes him laugh more than anybody else in the entire world, just through some of the random things that she says. When he’s not on a rally he’ll most likely be playing with her - and the desire to watch her grow up and spend a bit more normal time with his family at home has played a large part in Loeb’s decision to scale things back a bit now.
So you may think that Loeb leads a life less ordinary - which is so many ways he does, being a huge sporting hero who has even been given France’s highest civilian medal: the Legion d’Honneur.
But what he likes most is simply normality, and what he’s actually like as a man is just...normal. Which is actually one of the biggest compliments you can pay him.