Rally Italia Sardegna: Q&A with Loeb

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Sebastien Loeb will contest his penultimate event as a full-time FIA World Rally Championship driver when he tackles Rally Italia Sardegna this week in his Citroen DS3 WRC alongside co-driver Daniel Elena. Here are his thoughts ahead of the rally.

Winning your ninth world title in Alsace must have been a special moment?
“I had experienced it two years ago and I wanted to experience it again. It was even more intense this time, given that it was my last world title... in rallying, at least. Daniel and I have often said to one another that we have to make the most of these moments, because we won’t experience anything like it again. On the other hand, it is my decision to stop, so I don’t feel bitter. I know that other big challenges lie ahead. There were quite a few emotional moments, especially on Sunday when we went through the places near to where I grew up. I was taken aback by how many people turned out to support me throughout the whole week in Alsace, during reconnaissance, the stages and at the podium. It is mad how popular rallying has become in Alsace and I would suggest that this is certainly not the last time I will be taking part at this event.”

What is your mindset for the last two rounds, now that you have won your ninth drivers’ title and Citroen has won the manufacturers’ championship for the eighth time?
“When I compete in a rally, my aim is to win it. Otherwise, I might as well stay at home! The same goes for the entire Citroen team. It’s certainly true that after winning the titles, the tension has eased somewhat. There was a widespread sense of relief after we won in France, because everybody was waiting expectantly for it to happen. We still had to do it though, and nothing was easy in the car. In Sardinia, we’ll feel less pressure and we’ll be able to enjoy ourselves. It’s so nice and rare to be able to compete in a rally without having to worry about managing things. Once again, we’ll enjoy it if we win.”

Is that the kind of mindset you will have when competing in rallies next season?
“As far as I’m concerned, the story finished in Alsace when we won the two titles. The two remaining rallies are a bonus. In 2013, we are going to enter a few rounds of the WRC and we’ll be aiming to win more rallies. But the pressure will be different. Nonetheless 2013 will be a busy year, as we’ll need to work on the WTCC project in addition to this partial WRC programme.”

What do you think of next week’s rally?
“Sardinia is a tough event, and I remember having had some great scraps here against rivals who have always been very quick on this [gravel] surface. We have seen in the last few rallies that we’re not head and shoulders above the rest, so we’ll have to fight hard if we want to win.”