Citroën Racing has announced that multiple world champion Sébastien Loeb will be joined by namesake, compatriot and young protégé Sébastien Ogier full-time in 2011, with the programme for the record-breaking Frenchman's current team-mate Dani Sordo yet to be finalised.
Having competed for the team since 2001 – yielding an unbroken run of titles since 2004, with the 36-year-old similarly well on-course for an incredible seventh consecutive crown this season, to further cement his status as the most successful driver the FIA World Rally Championship has ever known – Loeb will remain on-board next year, accompanied by the man currently chasing him hardest in the points standings, Ogier.
The 26-year-old is presently competing for the Citroën Junior Team alongside ex-F1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen, but was recently nominated for manufacturer points in-place of Sordo on the remaining gravel rounds of 2010 – and he admitted he was delighted to have now signed a three-year contract with the 'works' operation.
“I'd like to thank Citroën for renewing its confidence in me, and what's more, for three seasons!” enthused the former Junior World Rally Champion, who recently secured his breakthrough WRC triumph on the Rally de Portugal in May, just under eight seconds ahead of Loeb and more than a minute clear of Sordo, who has generally struggled in 2010. “I made my world championship debut with this team, and I've always said that my priority was to stay with them.
“I'm thrilled at the idea of driving the new-generation World Rally Cars, and of defending the colours of the make at the topmost level. Like Sébastien, I'm fully concentrated on the end of this season starting with the Finnish Rally, where I'll be part of the Citroën Total World Rally Team for the first time!”
“My contract with Citroën allowed me to stop at the end of this year, but my motivation and my will to win are still as strong as ever!” added Loeb, whose deal would appear to be just for a single campaign. “The 2011 season will be my eleventh in the works Citroën colours.
“I think that the world championship will be a very interesting one, as the arrival of a new generation of cars will reshuffle the cards among the manufacturers. Of course, it's no secret that we're already working flat-out on the new Citroën DS3, and I can't wait to see where it stands in relation to its rivals. In the meantime, winning my seventh consecutive world title is my main objective!”
Indeed, the 2011 World Rally Championship will mark a turning-point in the history of the sport, with the arrival of the new-generation, four wheel-drive, 1600cc turbo-powered cars – and Citroen
Racing team principal Olivier Quesnel is convinced that in Loeb and Ogier, he has exactly the right partnership to get the job done in the brave new era.
“Obviously, it's a double dose of satisfaction for Citroën Racing,” affirmed the Frenchman. “Not content to have the greatest set of results in the history of rallying, Sébastien Loeb is still as hungry as ever for more victories and titles. His experience, his race intelligence and his capacity to get 100 per cent out his cars will be all-the-more crucial as we'll have a new car next season.
“Citroën Racing has been preparing for the future with Sébastien Ogier for some time now. This is why we wanted to sign a contract with him for the next three seasons. Dani Sordo is still part of our plans for next year, but we have to finalise our budgets before announcing the full programme.”