How Monte winner Loeb ‘didn’t push’ to take debut rallycross victory

by Hal Ridge |

French motor sport superstar Sebastien Loeb returned to the World Rally Championship last weekend with the M-Sport team at the Monte Carlo Rally and claimed an emphatic 80th WRC career victory, at 47-years-old.

But, while the nine-time WRC champion’s latest fairy tale win is among his most impressive, he does have ample previous form and experience of the French Alps.

When he raced in rallycross for the first time at X Games 18 in Los Angeles, 2012, having been challenged to take part by then fellow Red Bull Athlete Travis Pastrana, his performance was no less majestic.

The effort was an official Citroen Racing programme, with the car called the DS3 XL (for X Games and Loeb), and while the machine was billed as being developed by Citroen in France, based on a Hansen Motorsport Supercar. The reality was that the car was actually the DS3 with which Timur Timerzyanov had raced in the early part of the 2012 European Championship season.

Loeb first tested the car together with the late Philippe Bugalski at Dreux in France, then headed for the US.

“It was during one of the first practices there in LA, I was Sebastien’s spotter but I didn’t know how he was feeling in the car and I saw he had got a puncture, so I told him directly ‘You have a puncture on the right-rear.’ He just answered ‘I know.’ I thought, okay, this guy has full control,” explained 14-time European Rallycross Champion Hansen in the book Kenneth Hansen Fourteen.

“He won the first heat against Tanner [Foust], I think he was almost one second quicker per lap, so I said to Sebastien after the finish, to try and help him understand the competition ‘You don’t need to push so much, it’s enough to win the race. It’s nothing to do with the time, if you win, it’s good enough.’

‘I didn’t push,’ he replied. That’s when I knew that if everything went okay we would be fine, and I really understood why this guy is one of the greatest drivers of all time.”

The event was marred by serious accidents for Finnish drivers Marcus Gronholm and Toomas Heikkinen, and despite X Games being Loeb’s rallycross debut, the Frenchman dominated to take the gold medal ahead of American drivers Ken Block and Brian Deegan.

Loeb made his European Rallycross debut with the Knapick Competition team at Loheac in France the following year, while he raced in the World Rallycross Championship full-time from 2016 – 2018 together with Hansen Motorsport as part of Peugeot’s works-backed effort.

He claimed a maiden victory in Riga, Latvia in 2016, and a second win at Mettet in Belgium in 2018, but left the series when Peugeot withdrew at the close of the 2018 season, the team having not been in a position to challenge for the title.

Read Loeb’s thoughts on his maiden rallycross in and his World RX career in Kenneth Hansen Fourteen here.

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