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Sébastien Loeb interviewed by Red Bull Reporter

28 October 2009

Red Bull Reporter is a nationwide search to find the best young music, culture and sports writers, filmmakers, photographers and presenters, giving them the chance of a lifetime to use their skills and indulge their passions – and the first one was lucky enough to interview record-breaking multiple World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb in Cardiff ahead of last weekend's Rally GB.

As Red Bull Reporter teamed up with Crash.net for the thrilling, title-deciding event, budding reporter Mike Fryatt was selected for the assignment – and we have his exclusive interview report from the day right here for you to see first.

If you fancy becoming a Red Bull Reporter, there are plenty of new sports, music and culture-related upcoming assignments all over the world you could be going to – just head to www.redbullreporter.com to sign up and start submitting!

The most talented young media makers could be selected for one of our many exciting assignments – each designed to give them an amazing experience as a working member of the media – covering world-class sports, cutting-edge music and innovative culture events. What's more, Red Bull events happen all over the world, meaning Red Bull Reporters will be dispatched out there to cover them.

Check out Mike's interview with Loeb right here...

Sébastien Loeb is a man that needs no introduction in the world of rally; he is without question the most successful driver in the history of the sport, taking Michael Schumacher-esque dominance in recent years. For a five-time champion on the brink of his sixth consecutive title, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Sébastien would be a man with commanding presence that demanded attention as soon as he walked into the room, and so it felt as the guys from Red Bull circled the lobby of the hotel waiting for the man to arrive.

Oddly, it was his manager that had more presence, bounding into the room and taking control as a small statured Frenchman followed, looking for his family. Of all the things one could take away from this interview and the time I spent with him over the weekend, it was the obvious dedication he seemed to have for his family; and so it was that we sat down to discuss the upcoming Rally GB; with his two-year-old daughter clinging tightly to her father.

Mike Fryatt:
Sébastien, congratulations on another successful season and what will hopefully be a sixth consecutive title. How do you feel the season has gone so far? Obviously you took the first five rallies of the year but Mikko [Hirvonen] has been quick all year, you must have thought with those four wins between Greece and Australia, for Ford, that the pressure was mounting?

Sébastien Loeb:
Yeah for sure, after the five first wins we didn't expect to be in second today; but it's like that and it shows it's not that easy to win a rally and you need everything to be going perfectly in the team to win and so we lost a bit of steam in the middle of the season. We've come back from Australia so I hope we can win once more.

MF:
Do you feel much pressure going into Rally GB? You seem very relaxed. You won it last year and as a five time champion, you don't have anything prove. How are feeling going into this?

SL:
Well yes, it's a pressure to be here and that the championship will be dependent on what happens this weekend. So for sure it's a kind of pressure but I know that that's just the way sport goes sometimes. I know that whoever wins on Sunday, that one of us will be very happy and the other one disappointed but that's how sport works. It's difficult to know who will win but, that's just the way it goes, I will be trying to take this rally as I would any other one and we'll see.

MF:
You've spoken about not being a great fan of the conditions of Rally GB. If we look out the window today it's very wet, it's been raining heavily. How do you think that will affect you tomorrow?

SL:
I think it can be very tricky here. If it's raining, foggy, muddy, then it can be difficult so we'll just have to deal with that. It's the same for everybody so we'll just have to see how it goes. It's earlier than last year so hopefully the conditions will be a bit better, there won't be any snow or ice so I think it'll be okay. This is rallying after all.

MF:
This is one the closest title chases in WRC history. How important do you think that win in Spain in the last round was for your title contention?

SL:
Oh for sure, in Spain for me it was really important to win and for me to be able to come back against Mikko and luckily we managed to get it done there. When I arrived in Australia I knew that I had to win so that the title could still be in my hands, if not I would probably need someone else to help me. I didn't really want to get into this situation, but we did and Dani [Sordo] was able to help me out a bit and the one-two in Spain was very important as now it just down to me to try and win the title. I'm very happy in this situation and we'll just have to see how it goes over the weekend.

MF:
Speaking of your team-mate Dani Sordo, he has a had a great season so far, after his performance in Spain he's going into Rally GB very confident how do you think he will fare in these conditions?

SL:
Yeah, I think he can do very well. He has no pressure and he's getting faster and faster every time at each different rally on all surfaces and in all different conditions including now gravel. So I think he will be able to do something really good. He showed very good speed in the shakedown and I'm sure he will be competitive.

MF:
On a slight diversion from rallying, I was going to ask you about F1 and whether or not you would be making an appearance for Toro Rosso in Abu Dhabi. But obviously it has emerged in that last few days that the FIA probably won't be giving you a super licence. Is that a blow for you or do you feel they made the right decision?

SL:
Well, it's not really for me to decide that but I was happy to have just been there and to take that experience. I had the opportunity and for me it was great but the FIA have decided not to give me a super licence and it is what it is. As I have said, I don't have a lot of experience and so I cannot say that they are not right because they have spoken about my lack of experience in a formula car also, and they made a decision based on that, so that's it. It's not really a problem for me; the priority is rallying and this championship. That was just a bonus that I might have been able to do, but finally we know that I will not be able to do it.

MF:
If the opportunity were to come up in the future, whether with Red Bull, Toro Rosso or another team, do you think if the 'phone call came through that you would be able to say no?

SL:
To be honest, I don't know. All I know is that I don't have a super licence and that will be the same problem every time I try to break into F1 so no question about it really. I don't think it's an option for me anymore.

MF:
You seemed to have relatively good pace in formula cars. How do you feel the GP2 in Jerez went? You'd said that the day had been broken up by red flags and that you were unable to get any good running done, but do you think overall it was a success?

SL:
I think that overall I didn't have time to really get a feel for it. It was a three day test and I only did one day, then that one day I did was wet in the morning and then I only had an hour and a half in the afternoon. In this hour and a half there were maybe five or six red flags so it was impossible to do anything correctly. It was good to get a bit of feeling for the cars but we didn't have time to do it properly.

MF:
So all things considered, where is your future in racing? Is it in rallying, or do you think you would pursue a track career? You've had success on-track; the Race of Champions and Le Mans come to mind where you have done well.

SL:
Well, I think my future is still in rallying. We are agreed for two more years with Citroën. Then after that I don't know, maybe after that I can do some track racing, or after I decide to retire from rallying maybe do something but that is not decided yet.

MF:
The two-year deal with Citroën, is that confirmed now?

SL:
Nearly; it's not signed yet. It's more a question of lawyers and this kind of thing but it's pretty much done.

MF:
In Spain, Citroën Racing boss Olivier Quesnel was quoted in saying: “All I can say is that Dani and Sébastien will be driving for Citroën next year, It's official; we agree on everything so that is done.” I was going to ask you if this is confirmed as there didn't appear to be any contracts signed. Is that the case now, that it's agreed but not signed?

SL:
Yes, basically that's it. We just haven't put pen to paper yet.

MF:
Your co-driver Daniel Elena has won all five titles with you. When you do retire or move on, what do you think he will do?

SL:
[Laughs] I don't know. I don't think he would carry on much after I retire. He has had a lot of success as I have but I don't know. You would have to ask him I think. He may be looking forward to a nice retirement too.

MF:
Okay, well I think all that's left to say is merci Sébastien, et bonne chance ce weekend.

SL:
Thank you!

The next time I saw Sébastien was Sunday night as the newly crowned Rally GB 2009 Champion. The shy Sébastien I had interviewed a couple of days earlier had gone as he looked relaxed amongst family, friends and team mates at the Red Bull after party in the Mocka Lounge, Cardiff. I'd heard a few stories that he liked a dance but I was surprised to see the 'Champion du Monde' showing the younger guys how it was done; I caught up with him and his wife over a glass of Champagne and Red Bull (which was surprisingly quite nice) to congratulate him on another great season.

When preparing for the interview I expected to meet a man utterly focussed on racing, but the time I spent with Sébastien over the final weekend of the WRC season allowed me to see the Seb that most journalists never get to see; a devoted family man who strikes an efficacious balance between working hard and playing hard. I have no doubt he will continue to re-write the record books.


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