French rally ace Sébastien Loeb was unhappy with the outcome of this year’s second-to-last round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship, held at the Estering in Buxtehude, Germany. After a series of five consecutive podium finishes (third in Norway, Sweden, Canada and Latvia and a season-best second on his home race in France), his streak met an end on German soil, finishing only fourth in the semi-finals..
The uniqueness of the Estering is its first corner, a right hairpin on gravel that is well known for deciding the outcome of entire races, as the track provides no more opportunities for overtaking; that’s where last year’s winner, Kevin Eriksson, spun his car on the first lap of the semi-final, slowing down Loeb, who from then on fought as hard as he could, but to no avail, losing out to Finn Niclas Grönholm by just three tenths of a second. A case of history repeating itself, as the nine-time World Champion had already lost a race (the 2007 Rally New Zealand) by finishing just 0.3 seconds shy of Grönholm Sr.
Historical coincidences aside, the major cause of frustration for Loeb is the fact that Team Peugeot-Hansen had put considerable effort into developing their World RX contender, the Peugeot 208 WRX.
“Of course, this is not the result I was expecting,” Loeb admitted.
“I never managed to exit this first turn ahead, and so I was always stifled by slower drivers and could not express myself.
“This also complicates the situation for the final Championship podium. And, it’s even more vexing since I was amongst the fastest in the semi-final, proof that in terms of sheer performance, we were doing well! We had optimised the differentials, the engine as well, during a test session in Mayenne last week…
“That’s what I’ll bear in mind after this frustrating weekend: that the team’s continued efforts are definitely going in the right direction.”
While the World Rallycross series is on a break, leading to the season finale in South Africa, 10-12 November, Loeb will be competing on a rally-raid event in Morocco next week, preparing for next year’s Dakar Rally again with Peugeot.