11 June 2010
Sebastien Loeb: Q&A
Citroen's Sebastien Loeb takes time out during the current WRC summer break to look ahead to the ADAC Rallye Deutschland, which returns to the series this year after being left off the 2009 calendar. Loeb has won in Germany every year since the country hosted it debut event back in 2002 and the Frenchman will be out to make it eight in a row in August, after the events in Bulgaria and Finland...
Sebastien, for six years now, none of your competitors has been able to beat you on an asphalt rally. Your series of wins at the ADAC Rallye Deutschland is even longer: you started it in 2002. What do you do better on tarmac compared to your rivals?
It's not as if I have a special preference for asphalt rallies. Rather, I like driving on gravel, snow or ice equally well. I like variety. It's a challenge to adapt to different requirements. This is the big difference between rallying and circuit racing. There is more skidding on gravel. In snow you have to find the optimum line. Asphalt is hard and usually everything is more precise: steering, braking etc. The Rally Monte Carlo and Germany are probably the most challenging road rallies. The level of grip changes constantly. The grip of your tyres is different in every turn. These constant changes and the need to adapt your speed and find the optimum braking points is what rallying is all about. And I seem to be pretty good at it.
Is the ADAC Rallye Deutschland something of a home rally for you?
I can't say I'm at home there but it does feel a bit like that. My native region is quite close, and since my first start in the German rally many of my friends have been there with me. Except for the Rally Monte Carlo, the ADAC Rallye Deutschland is the event to which I have the closest emotional ties: because of the fans, my successes and because these two rallies are something very special.
What makes the ADAC Rallye Deutschland so special?
Most of all, it's the variety of stages and surfaces. There are some very fast sections, some extremely difficult passages, that are narrow then wide asphalt roads. And the tarmac on all of them varies as well. There is hardly one metre the same as the one before. It's an absolute challenge.
How do you like the special stages in the Moselle vineyards?
That's what I like most. I think they are some of the best special stages of them all. They require 100 per cent concentration. Just 99 per cent is not enough. Hardly anywhere else you feel the speed the way you do here. The satisfaction afterwards is immense, even though I never cease to wonder how fast we drive on these narrow vineyard roads.
What does the word “Hinkelstein” evoke?
You mean those big boulders one should keep away from? So far, I had only one date with a Hinkelstein, during a test for the ADAC Rallye Deutschland. It may not have been my worst accident but definitely the toughest on my neck. My co-driver Daniel Elena had to do the Rally Finland, which came next, with a fractured rib. I'm always very careful around those things.
Are you saying that the stage on the Baumholder tank range is not one of your favourites?
Why would I? “Arena Panzeplatte” is something very special and contributes a lot to this rally's charm. Baumholder is so different, so unlike any other asphalt tracks we know. There are rough, clean, wide and fast sections with gravel, mud and dust thrown in for an extreme setting. Nowhere is it harder for a driver to find the right mix. Everybody can floor the pedal but if you want to win Germany you have to be successful in this particular special stage.
How do you like the “Circus Maximus” super special in the heart of Trier?
To be honest, I'm not a great fan of the so-called super special. But the stage in Trier is among the better ones and it's interesting - not least for the spectators, I should say. It's good and important that we should bring our sport closer to the people in such special stages and let them watch us at work.
Finally, who is your bet for 2010 FIFA Football World Cup?
That's a tough one. There are a lot of strong teams and some big favourites. I'm neither an expert nor the greatest soccer fan. I hope it will be easier for me to show you who will be the 2010 rally world champion! I intend to take a step closer towards that goal in the ADAC Rallye Deutschland.
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