Nick Cassidy faced a conundrum for the 2022 racing season: he was due to race for AlphaTauri AF Corse in Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters as well as Envision Racing in Formula E; however, some DTM dates clash with FE. To remedy this problem, AF Corse turned to someone with more than enough experience on off-road and touring cars but is new to DTM: Sébastien Loeb.
Loeb needs no introduction for rally fans as a nine-time World Rally Champion with eighty rally victories including Monte Carlo in January. While off-road is his forté, Loeb is no stranger pavement circuit racing as the 2006 24 Hours of Le Mans runner-up. In 2014 and 2015, he finished third in the FIA World Touring Car Championship with six race wins.
The Frenchman had tested an AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 in Belgium last Tuesday.
“Throughout my career, I have always liked to change between disciplines,” said Loeb. “DTM is a famous championship and as the opportunity came up for me to compete in it, I took it, of course. It is an exciting challenge because the driving style is entirely different.
“Now, it is time to work. I will be up against specialists in such racers and my last proper GT3 race already is a long time ago. My goal will be to find my rhythm as well as I can and I will try to use my experience to give the team good feedback about the set-up of the car. I know that it will be difficult but the cars really are fun to drive. Really fast, nice cars. Therefore, I am looking forward to it.”
For 2022, Loeb is racing in the Extreme E Championship and World Rally-Raid Championship for Team X44 and Bahrain Raid Xtreme, respectively. He finished runner-up in the Dakar Rally in January, and he won his fourth Race of Champions in snowy conditions a month later.
His DTM schedule will begin immediately with the first race of the season at Algarve International Circuit in Portimão on 30 April–1 May. The round is on the same weekend as Formula E’s Monaco ePrix, thereby eliminating Cassidy from running DTM. The two series also conflict on 2–3 July with DTM’s Norisring race and FE’s Vancouver ePrix.
“Having the most successful rally driver of all times with us in our season opener at Portimão is a genuine highlight that fans can look forward to,” commented DTM head Gerhard Berger. Like Loeb, Berger was sponsored by Red Bull during his driving career. “The achievements in his career speak for themselves, but nevertheless, it will be a hard competition against very strong drivers, for Sébastien Loeb as well. Standing in for Nick Cassidy, he will be fighting for points with the AlphaTauri Ferrari, so therefore I am certain that a champion of his stature will be highly motivated coming to the race track.”
Felipe Fraga will serve as Loeb and Cassidy’s team-mate.