The 2017 FIA World Rallycross Championship season hasn’t started in the best of ways for Sébastien Loeb. The nine-time World Rally Champion, in his second full season with Team Peugeot-Hansen, closed the series-opening weekend in Barcelona in a lacklustre fourteenth place, mainly due to a mechanical failure in Q3.
On Saturday’s first qualifying session, his performance was hampered by a wet track, meaning he only was ninth fastest. While the track dried out after his race, the rain came back just as Séb started his race in Q2, coming home again in 9th.
As day 2 began, the Frenchman was confident about posting better results in the next two heats, but a broken propshaft in Q3 dropped him to last place. Track conditions were gradually improving, yet Loeb was among the earliest starters in the final qualifying session: his 8th place meant he only qualified 14th overall, thus knocking him out of the competition.
For a driver with such credentials as Loeb’s, only scoring three championship points, and not reaching the semifinals, has been a clear disappointment.
“Clearly, this is not the result I was hoping for,” regrets the nine-time World Rally Championship winner. “This championship requires particular regularity, and it’s important to make sure the lacklustre races are salvaged with the least bad result possible, which wasn’t the case here.
“One positive point is the progress of the 2017 model of our Peugeot 208 WRX, as shown by the fifth place of my team-mate Timmy Hansen in the final. In terms of sheer performance, we’re not out of the game. Nevertheless, we have to admit that our competitors have stepped it up again. We knew Audi, Ford, or Volkswagen had worked hard since last season, and that was confirmed today.
“This being said, we still have reason to hope since on our side, we’re also looking into new developments in order to be even more competitive. Starting this Monday — we’re staying here for another day of testing. This weekend we battled on a high-grip track, but the next round in this championship is shaping up to be the exact opposite.
“The Montalegre circuit is rather slippery, with bumps and strong jolts on certain sections, so we’ll be able to assess how versatile the various cars prove to be.”
The next step for the Frenchman will be the Portuguese round of the championship in Montalegre on 21-23 April, on the same track where Loeb made his WRX début last year, showing his capacity to adapt by finishing fifth under pouring rain.