Exclusive interview with world champion Sebastien Loeb

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There are no doubts Sebastien Loeb is a walking, living and highly intelligent legend in the motorsport racing. He is nine-times World Champion and his titles speak for themselves. However, the Dakar statue is the one he still has not grabbed yet. The Frenchman will stand at the start line with Bahrain Raid Xtreme (BRX) team in Saudi Arabia.

S. Loeb had already seen South American dunes and deserts where with “Peugeot” team proudly stood up on the second and third podium places. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia will be something new for this intelligent and competitive rally legend.

The Frenchman and his teammate two-time Dakar champion Nani Roma will try to finish Mini and “Toyota” dominance in the toughest world rally raid. Undoubtedly, BRX team will try to make Dakar one of the most interesting events in 2021.

With RacingLifeNews.com the World Champion shared his thoughts about new “Prodrive” car, World Rally Championship (WRC) and what he would tell a boy who wants to become like him.

How do you rate your performance at the World Rally Championship (WRC) this year?

I think it was very short. (laughs) Because we were only in Monte Carlo and Turkey stages. After Monte Carlo, I was not the happiest for what we did. Of course, we did some good things like stage times. But we struggled to be consistent, I made a mistake with tire I chose the last day and we lost everything. When we finished the rally, I think we were on third or fourth place and finally we went down to sixth or seventh place. So, it was not a happy end of rally. 

Meanwhile, Turkey stage was very good. I was fighting for the victory when punctures made the difference fell between the different drivers. The first three drivers were Thierry Neuville, me and Sebastien Ogier. All three drivers had a puncture and we lost chances to win. I was in the fight from the start to the end and it was very exciting, because it was a new rally for me. I have got a new experience driving in the WRC. I was very happy with our performance and to fight with the best drivers in the world of today. 

When Sebastien Loeb started his career in WRC there were many manufactures teams like Subaru, Citroen, Peugeot or Mitsubishi, but now there are only three left. How do you see the WRC future?

I am not in WRC anymore, but it was always like this. It was time when there were many manufactures’ teams, sometimes less. Then the only thing we thought that it would be difficult future for categories and suddenly again comes two different manufactures’ teams. It‘s very difficult to predict the championship’s future. But at the moment, I think WRC is very exciting, because of different fast cars and a lot of good drivers fight for the victory. Of course, the championship is still losing manufactures‘ teams and in the future it could become tough.

The main your career was in the classic rally not in rally raid. Is it difficult to change from one rally type to another?

It‘s not just difficult, but it is a big challenge too. I have decided a few days ago to stop competing in WRC until 2023. I want to try other things in motorsport like GT, WEC, Pikes Peak Hills and also Dakar. I came back to WEC two years ago, but in Dakar I felt the best, because it’s a very big adventure. I had never been before in this kind of places.

So, if I did not race there, maybe I could never see these places in my entire life. I saw a lot of beautiful things and I have very good memories from this race. After WEC, I started thinking what to do again and Dakar was the race in which I would like to come back. I have this opportunity with “Prodrive” and BRX. It’s a new project with new car and a strong team. When I saw the design of a car and team’s motivation, I though it is a very good choice.

“Dakar was the race in which I would like to come back.”, S. Loeb.

Did you have any offers from other teams to go to Dakar?

Yes, I had other different choices. But I found out that BRX project is very good, when I saw whole car design. I started thinking that it’s a very good way to come back to Dakar. I was interested in to work with “Prodrive”, because I had never had an opportunity to work with them in my career. I always knew that it’s a very strong team. Now I’ve got this opportunity to go for it.

You already had a chance to try “Prodrive” car. What kind of impression did it leave?

Yes, I had a chance to try it, but sadly not in the real desert condition. On the gravel track and it was in middle of the Great Britain. So, it is not the exact condition which we have in Dakar. After the first test the feeling was great. I found out that engine is very good and easy it‘s very easy to manage.

A car has very good balanced. I think all elements of car were good. I was pretty surprised and happy, because I felt good in this car. The team did very good job, because we know that Dakar is very long, tricky and difficult for mechanics. So, now we are doing our best to prepare and be ready for rally.

When I had an interview with your teammate Nani Roma, he said that a new car in Dakar needs time. Sometimes it takes even two or three years. Would you agree with it?

I hope that I won’t need to wait two or three years. (laughs) I wish we will have a good start and performance in 2021. For sure, you must have a strong car and wouldn’t have any problems which is pretty difficult. I think the team does a very good job, they try to do everything to have a good start. 

I and Nani try to give advices and share our experience with them. We want to avoid our mistakes which were done in the past. Of course, it will not be very easy and I don’t know what we could expect at the moment. But I hope we will have a very good car in the race.

Sebastien Loeb will complete the team’s pair of drivers, following the recent news that Spaniard, Nani Roma would drive for BRX (photo credit: BRX)

You have already raced in Dakar with Peugeot team. What kind of differences there are between “Prodrive” and Peugeot cars?

The main difference is that Peugeot is manufacture team and “Prodrive” is a private team. “Prodrive” is a very big team and you need to build a new car. Peugeot wasn’t in the same category. Peugeot was a biggie and “Prodrive” is a foreway drive. In my opinion the base of the car which Peugeot has now is better than in the past. The team was working very hard on it and maybe now it’s the best car in Dakar. But the way of working is not so different than in “Prodrive” and we will find the way to do a good job too.

So, could “Prodrive” compete with Mini and “Toyota” in Dakar?

I hope so, because I am not going there to compete for 15th place. My objective is to be able to compete with the best cars. Like I said, I know it will be difficult, because new teams usually struggle in Dakar. But I wish we would have a chance to test a car, to find all small problems and to fix them before Saudi Arabia.

It will be your first Dakar in Saudi Arabia and your colleagues probably shared their thoughts about it. What do you expect from Dakar 2021?

I have never been in Saudi Arabia and I don’t know a lot about this country. But from what I’ve heard from other drivers about rally, they all said it was really nice. The type of stages is good, maybe the second week was too fast and organizers will change it in 2021. I’m really looking to be there.

You are nine-time World Champion and it looks that you have already proven everything. You are the best in the world and maybe motorsport fans will never see again the champion like you. How do you still manage to get motivation? Could we say that love for rally will be always in your heart?

Absolutely. And it is for sure that love for rally and motorsport will be forever. I always enjoy it and it‘s my passion. Even thought, I’m 46 years old now, I still enjoy racing and competitions. Maybe, it is the only right thing which I do in my life. The champion like Carlos Sainz, he still competes too and wins Dakar. So, I do the same, because it is my passion.

“Maybe, it is the only right thing which I do in my life.”, S. Loeb.

Sebastien Loeb and Sebastien Ogier are multiple World Champions. So, where is the secret of Frenchmen rally drivers?

We are lucky that we are from France. (laughs) We became many times champions in a row, but it wasn’t like this in the past. In my opinion, it will be complicated in the future to succeed to find so good driver as S. Ogier. It is just one generation difference between me and him. When I decided to retire from WRC, he was already very strong. I don’t think so it stands a secret behind it. It is not tomorrow that we will any other Frenchman who is beating Ogier .

Sebastien Ogier (R) and Sebastien Loeb prior the opening of the “Red Bull World of Racing” at the Swiss Museum of Transport (Verkehrshaus) in Lucerne, Switzerland on December 11, 2019. // Romina Amato/Red Bull Content Pool //

If you meet a small boy who would ask you: “Sebastien Loeb, I want to be like you and I want to become the World Champion. What should I do?”. What would you answer to him?

It‘s not so easy to know from where to start. For me it was very different, because I started very late. And now I think the best way to start would be from kartings. And then to find the opportunity to join the young talents federation. In France we have it. The next step would be to get a driving license. I think it would be the best selection. But it is not only the question of training, because there are many other challenges for young drivers.

READ MORE:

Exclusive interview with Dakar winner Nani Roma

Sébastien Loeb open to Hyundai return

Sébastien Loeb: no plan to bow out yet

Sebastien Loeb set for Dakar return with BRX team

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