12 August 2011
Q&A: Sebastien Loeb, Citroen
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.
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?
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.
Who do you think is your strongest competitor in the WRC?
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.
You have been a professional rally driver for ten years now. Do you feel old?
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.
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?
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.
Well, then the logical thing for you to do is stay on in the WRC...
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.
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