Sébastien Loeb has left the door open for a potential WRC return with Hyundai Motorsport after calling time on his current FIA World Rally Championship career with the Korean manufacturer.
The nine-time word champion confirmed on Thursday (1 October) morning that he will drive for the new Bahrain Raid Xtreme squad at next year’s Dakar Rally. The team will be run by WRC multi-title winning squad Prodrive.
Hyundai quickly confirmed Loeb’s part-time WRC programme would not extend into a third season, but intriguingly both the Frenchman and team principal Andrea Adamo suggested the partnership could resume further down the road.
“Hyundai Motorsport gave me the best WRC car I have ever driven, and I was glad I could compete at the highest level with the latest generation of WRC cars,” said Loeb.
“Now, a new chapter will open in 2021 with Prodrive in Rally Raid but who knows for WRC. Neither Hyundai Motorsport nor I want to completely close the book for good.”
Adamo said in a Hyundai statement: “We wish them all the best in their next chapter and keep our doors wide open to them should they ever wish to return.”
Loeb was part of Hyundai’s manufacturers’ title-winning line-up in 2019 and started eight WRC rounds with the team. He scored two third places, in Chile last year and last month’s fixture in Turkey.
Additional appearances at this season’s Safari Rally Kenya and Rally New Zealand did not happen after the Covid-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of both events.
“Here we are at the end of the adventure with Hyundai Motorsport and what an adventure it has been,” Loeb said.
“I am extremely grateful for the opportunity they gave me during these two years by offering me a partial programme, totally in line with my expectations, within a very professional team and in a pleasant atmosphere.
“These two years have passed extremely quickly, this one having also been cut by several months as a result of the pandemic, but they will have marked part of my career, and with another manufacturer title success to which I contributed.”
Adamo said Loeb and co-driver Daniel Elena brought a wealth of expertise and experience to Hyundai.
“All areas of our operation have benefited from their knowhow, directly or indirectly. Their contribution helped us to fight for – and win – the championship last season. Their knowledge and commitment was perfectly demonstrated in the tougher rallies like Chile and Turkey.
“The pandemic has meant we haven’t been able to use them as we had intended this season, but their performance in Turkey was a reminder to everyone of their ever-present ability and speed,” he added.