» BACK TO CRASH.NET

Crash.Net WRC News

Sebastien Loeb, Citroen - Q&A

12 August 2011


Citroen ace Sebastien Loeb looks ahead to next week's ADAC Rallye Deutschland, the ninth round in the 2011 FIA World Rally Championship, and discusses his plans for the future...



Q:
Sebastien, after eight consecutive ADAC Rallye Deutschland wins, would you be disappointed should you not win this time?

Sebastien Loeb:
Of course I would be disappointed. No doubt about that. But I also know that one day I will not be the winner here. That's the way it is in racing. But I do hope to get a good result again this year, especially with the WRC being such a tight race this year.

Q:
What do you think your chances are?

Sebastien Loeb:
My chances are good. After all this is one of the only asphalt only rallies. As far as I can remember, I've won no other WRC rally as regularly as I have in Germany, right? And haven't I won almost every asphalt rally I've started in over the past few years? I suppose I am the favourite. I have to live with that and I can live with that.

Q:
They say you feel something special about the ADAC Rallye Deutschland. What makes this event so special?

Sebastien Loeb:
I can't say this is home but it does feel a lot like that. It's close to my native region, and every time I started here, many of my friends were able to come. This rally is special for more reasons than just my success. I feel emotional ties also because this was my first WRC win ever. You never forget your first victory. And of course, there are the fans and the very specific character of the event.

Q:
What makes the ADAC Rallye Deutschland stand apart?

Sebastien Loeb:
First of all it's the great variety of roads and pavements. There are very fast stages and some extremely difficult sections. Wide and narrow roads alternate frequently. And to top everything, you have to deal with very different surfaces. There is hardly a car-length like the other. An absolute challenge.

Q:
After eight stints in the snow and on gravel roads, Germany will be the first asphalt rally for the new World Rally Cars. What do you expect?

Sebastien Loeb:
The Citroën DS3 WRC is definitely more skittish than the C4. This is because it is shorter and there is no more centre differential in the new cars. The tyres are going to enhance this feel. This year's Michelin tyres are different from last year's Pirellis. But these are just two factors that make the handling different this year. It's a challenge we must all meet.

Q:
What about your preparations?

Sebastien Loeb:
We're just back from the first real asphalt test here. I only drove the DS3 twice on paved roads before: last year, when development began, and then a short while ago at Satory, the little racing circuit used by Citroën Racing. The feel and balance of the car were quite good from the start. We got here with a basic set-up and then tried many different things. Since the individual stages are so different from one another, I spent one day at the Baumholder tank range and half a day each on two different sections in the Mosel vineyards.

Q:
What set-up do you need to do well on asphalt?

Sebastien Loeb:
Most importantly, the car should feel good with exactly the right balance. It should have no more than minimum understeer. You have to be able to trust your car and predict its every reaction precisely. When you are cornering, your rear end should not break away. The steering reaction should be gradual.

Q:
How does Loeb become Loeb? What do you do different from everybody else at the ADAC Rallye Deutschland?

Sebastien Loeb:
No idea, honestly. The vineyard roads are very special. And Baumholder is so different, so unlike any other hard pavement. There are very rough sections, then very neat ones, wide ones, fast ones, patches of gravel, dirt and dust - a very extreme combination. The level of grip changes constantly. In every corner the tyres have more or less grip. It's the constant changes and adapting your speed and finding the optimum braking points that does it - and I seem to handle all that pretty well. It is important to have precise recce notes. You have to get a good feel of the road in order to take the first pass through a special stage at the absolute limit, exactly like on a racing circuit. To do that, your notes have to be perfect. Without them you cannot drive 100 percent at the limit and remain on the road. Maybe French rally drivers have a very good feel for asphalt roads. After all that's what we grow up with.

Q:
In the years past, you were always able to distance your competitors a few seconds from the first special stage. Is this part of your strategy?

Sebastien Loeb:
I wouldn't say strategy. I'm a rally racer. On asphalt, you have to drive at the limit right from the start otherwise you're giving away time. It's like getting off the grid in a circuit race. There may be drivers who need a car length or two to get off and running. But I go full throttle right away. And there is nowhere else you experience your speed quite like in the vineyards. It gives you tremendous satisfaction and quite a shiver when you realise how fast you really were on those narrow service roads. But we do not have anything like a proper strategy for asphalt.

Q:
Who do you think is your strongest competitor in the WRC?

Sebastien Loeb:
The standings show that Mikko Hirvonen and Sébastien Ogier are my strongest competitors. I think my team-mate Ogier is the faster of the two. He can really put the heat on. I don't expect that to be different on asphalt.

Q:
You have been a professional rally driver for ten years now. Do you feel old?

Sebastien Loeb:
Old, no, not really. But I know that I'm closer to the end of my racing career than to its beginning. If you look at the last few rallies, you will see that my driving is still competitive. I am still competing for the title. But I absolutely don't know what will be after the end of this season.

Q:
At 37 years of age, many would expect you to retire from racing. Your one-time neighbour and fellow resident in Switzerland, seven-time F1 World Champion Michael Schumacher, retired at the same age only to return to the F1 cockpit three years later. What do you think about all that?

Sebastien Loeb:
It's very hard to take that kind of decision. In my heart, I still want to compete. And I want to avoid getting in Michael's situation where I retire only to come back after a few years. I hope I'll find a different way for myself. If I say farewell to the WRC, then it should be forever. Once I'm through with rally-racing I can see myself in endurance racing. Le Mans is something I would like to do. I also like circuit racing. But the most important thing I need is: adrenalin. I cannot imagine just doing nothing. Not now, not in a few years down the line.

Q:
Well, then the logical thing for you to do is stay on in the WRC...

Sebastien Loeb:
I have seven WRC titles and this year I hope I'll get number eight. Should I win another one after that, I don't see what that would change for me. It is also a question of motivation. I would definitely like to have more time for my family but I also need a challenge. I really have no idea what I will do. Maybe I need something new. I have not decided yet.


» BACK TO CRASH.NET