Sébastien Loeb has prepared for his test outing in Red Bull Racing's Formula 1 car at Barcelona early next week with a shakedown run at Silverstone – and even 'difficult' conditions did not prevent the Frenchman from driving the only way he knows how by giving it maximum attack.
The record-breaking, five-time consecutive World Rally Champion has been awarded the test drive by Red Bull by way of congratulations for his latest crown, clinched courtesy of third place on Rally Japan earlier this month. He previously drove an F1 car when he swapped mounts with then Renault ace Heikki Kovalainen at the end of 2007, taking to the track at Paul Ricard in southern France.
The 34-year-old's outing around the Circuit de Catalunya on Monday (17 November), however – during the first major group get-together of the winter 'off' season – will be his maiden 'true' test. Even if he clearly has no objective of taking it any further than that, his preparatory run at the celebrated 'Home of British Motor Racing' on a miserable, rainy day proved that Loeb is far from intent on taking it easy.
“It was a great experience for me,” enthused the most successful driver in WRC history, “but without traction control in low temperatures and in these conditions it was difficult, so I had to react very quickly when the car went sideways.
“I was happy with the feeling I had with the car, though. I was not fast but I was feeling well in the car so in Barcelona, for sure, I hope I can do well.”
The Citroën Total World Rally Team star's efforts also impressed RBR, who evidently expect Loeb to raise more than a few eyebrows when he hits the circuit at Montmeló in two days' time.
“This run gave Séb a chance to see what the car feels like, learn all the controls, work with the engineers and make sure he was comfortable in the car,” explained the Milton Keynes-based outfit's test team manager Tony Burrows.
“It was difficult conditions, it was freezing cold, it was wet so it felt slippery to him, but he did a good job. He was on it straightaway – he's certainly not frightened of the car, that's for sure! There are a few seat modifications needed to make things more comfortable, but everything else is fine – just as we expected.”
“He did a really good job,” concurred the energy drinks-backed squad's chief test engineer Ian Morgan. “Obviously the conditions weren't great – he was running on wet tyres on a damp track – but we did everything we needed to do [and] he's got used to the car. He seems very, very motivated and very keen.
“He'll certainly do his best on Monday. The physical demands will be the biggest problem for him I think – 5G under braking and the lateral loads are quite high in Barcelona and he's not used to that – but we'll do everything we can to help him and get him through the day.”
Ten days after his test with RBR at Barcelona, Loeb is also due to get behind the wheel of Peugeot's Le Mans 24 Hours 908 HDi at Paul Ricard [see separate story – click here