Sebastien Loeb has admitted he is feeling the pressure ahead of the new-look Rallye de France and despite his dominance on asphalt he has said it is no foregone conclusion he will win.
The event will be an emotional one for the Frenchman as it is being held in the area where he grew up for the very first time, with the final stage around the streets of Hagenau in homage to the Citroen man who previously lived in the little Bas-Rhin community.
A win this coming weekend will not only give him and co-driver, Daniel Elena, their 60th WRC victory, but it will also ensure he wins the WRC drivers' title for the seventh time on the trot. The stakes could not be higher and while he is the favourite, he is quick to point out that there are plenty of other drivers' that are capable of winning.
“It's one hell of a lot of pressure,” said local hero Loeb. “Given my success rate on this kind of surface, everybody's expecting me to stroll home to an easy victory. But this rally won't be any easier than the others.
“Quite the opposite in fact, as it's a completely new event [having previously been based on the island of Corsica] consisting of quick roads, which include most of the difficulties we normally meet on asphalt.
“This season, there are six drivers who are all capable of winning, so the overall level of the championship is very high and there's no way victory for me in this event is a foregone conclusion.”
Loeb has won five events so far this year and has notched up 201 points in total. That gives him a 43 point cushion going into the final three rounds and only two drivers' can mathematically stop him from winning the title - namely fellow countryman, Sebastien Ogier (on 158 points) and Jari-Matti Latvala (on 132 points). It means that to bag the title, Seb will have to win at least one of the three final events and he added that to do that at home would be very special.
“The ideal would be to clinch it as soon as possible,” Loeb added. “Obviously, winning my sixtieth victory and my seventh world title at home would be the fulfilment of a dream. It would be sheer magic to do that in Hagenau. But to do this it'll take more than just dreams and magic! I'll have to be very quick against rivals whose motivation will be boosted a hundredfold.
“There's going to be a lot of expectations on the part of all those present, and what's at stake for Citroen is also very important [as we can also clinch the manufacturers' championship for a sixth time, providing the gap to Ford is more than 86 points on Sunday evening]. All that adds to the pressure.
“I'll just have to cope with it. But I have to say that I'm really looking forward to this rally,” he summed-up.