2018 RallyRACC Catalunya – Rally de España victor Sébastien Loeb is no stranger to the podium, especially in Spain where he has now won the event nine times, this time though he feels it was different, ranking it as possible his greatest win of his career.
Before the event had even got underway Loeb was playing down the possibility of extending his record for most ever wins in the FIA World Rally Championship, and on the opening night it looked like it was going to be an uphill struggle as he stalled on the 3.20km Super Special in Barcelona, finishing the stage 15.9 seconds down on Sébastien Ogier‘s fastest time, placing him twenty-seventh overall.
By the end of the first full day Loeb was back up to fourth place, and the gap to the top was at 30.2 seconds as Ott Tänak pushed on amongst the rain-swept gravel stages. Heading in to the final day Loeb was in third place, just 8 seconds down on leader Jari-Matti Latvala.
On the opening stage of Sunday Loeb blitzed the stage, finishing 6.1 seconds faster than home hero Dani Sordo, moving in to the lead of the rally, another win on SS16 saw him sitting 7.1 seconds ahead of Latvala and 10.8 seconds faster than Ogier.
While Ogier would close the gap on the final two stages, the battle of the Sébastien’s had been settle, Loeb was crowned the winner by just 2.9 seconds, a popular victory in the service area, along with Ogier jumping up on to the roof of the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT C3 WRC to congratulate his fellow countryman.
“It was an almighty scrap, right to the bitter end.” said Loeb. “When I saw that I had won on the display at the end of the final stage, it was a truly incredible feeling!
“It’s really nice to have managed to be on the pace again after all these years, because the guys haven’t stood still whilst I’ve been away and they really pushed hard every inch of the way.”
“I couldn’t afford to drag my heels in getting my bearings back on the gravel on Friday, or on the wet tarmac yesterday either. We were quick this morning after making the right call on tyres and then we held on, despite a minor error on the penultimate stage.
“Right now, given how the rally panned out, I’d be tempted to say it’s perhaps my greatest win and I’m delighted to secure what is a richly deserved result for the team.”
Sunday’s victory extends Loeb’s overall wins to 79, and while this is the last of his scheduled rallies this season, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him back in the sport next year for a limited programme. With Peugeot ending their FIA World Rallycross Championship efforts and no Dakar programme for 2019, Loeb remains a PSA contracted driver…