The career of Sébastien Loeb has been an illustrious one which has seen him take a record nine FIA World Rally Championship titles. Later in his career he has diversified and tried his hand at sportscars, touring cars, rallycross and recently the gruelling Dakar rally with Peugeot.
For 2016 Loeb joins Team Peugeot-Hansen for the FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy, driving their 600 BHP Peugeot 208 WRX alongside 2015 title runner-up Timmy Hansen.
Loeb has flirted with rallycross in the past and proved that his rally skills transition perfectly to the rallycross circuits around the world.
In 2012, Travis Pastrana asked his Red Bull stablemate to join the rallycross event at the Summer X Games in Los Angeles via an online video. Naturally the Frenchman accepted, and Citroën provided a DS3 XL (X Games + Loeb).
“I love racing and I’m always interested in trying out new categories.” Loeb said at time. “The week after the New Zealand Rally has finished, I’ll be in Los Angeles to take up the challenge set for me by Travis! Rallycross here in Europe provides some very spectacular racing, but the American version seems to be even more extreme. So, I didn’t need to be asked twice when the opportunity arose to race against drivers like Marcus Grönholm in a 545bhp Citroën DS3!”
The weekend itself was somewhat subdued, due to Marcus Grönholm and Topi Heikkinen suffering heavy accidents in practice. Loeb still put on a show come raceday, when he got the jump on the start and took the holeshot, leading Ken Block in to the first corner. The Gymkhana star tried hard throughout the race to catch the Frenchman, but Loeb was too hot to handle and dominated the race. X Games Gold would beckon as he finished ahead of Block (who finished the race on three wheels and a rim) and Brian Deegan.
Talking after the event he said “It was a great end to the weekend and obviously, I’m really pleased to win the gold medal, but I must admit I’m finding it hard to really enjoy it when my ‘best enemy’ Marcus Grönholm is in hospital after his crash.
“We were both very much looking forward to racing against each other here and it’s a shame that it didn’t happen. This was my first rallycross race but I quickly realised that the start would be crucial. As I was a little faster than the others in free practice, I knew that if I had got away well at the start, I’d be almost certain of winning. I came here hoping I’d win and that’s exactly what happened!”
Moving on to 2013 and Loeb took up another invitation to race, this time from Loheac RX organiser Patrick Germain; relishing the chance to face off against former WRC adversary Petter Solberg in front of a home crowd. Loeb raced a Citroen DS3 run by Knapick Competition, alongside French rallycross legend, Herve ‘Knapick’.
The first day saw Loeb ninth in the standings, before making it through to the semi-final on the second day. Unfortunately that’s as far as his European Rallycross adventure took him. Andreas Bakkerud dominated the race ahead of Tanner Foust and Timur Timerzyanov, with Loeb requiring a third place to make it in finals, it was game over.
Speaking after the race he said, “I started from the last line (in the semi-final), so it was difficult. I went to fourth place, but I needed a third, so it finished in the semi-final. Apart from that, the rhythm was good, but the others are fast so it’s very close. For sure I was a bit held up at the end, but I couldn’t find a way to overtake. That’s life.”
Fast forward to 2016 and Loeb now has two seasons of door-to-door circuit racing under his belt from the FIA World Touring Car Championship. This can only have improved his race craft, and with Loeb back in the Hansen fold, he is surely a major threat to the rest of the World Rallycross field and defending champion Petter Solberg for the season ahead.