Sébastien Loeb has conceded that he was faced with three options for his future prior to committing to remain with current employer Citroën for another two seasons – revealing that he similarly evaluated the pros and cons of a move to Volkswagen or hanging up his WRC helmet.
It was confirmed on Wednesday that Loeb – the most successful driver in World Rally Championship history, with an incredible seven consecutive drivers' crowns on his extraordinary CV and an eighth on the horizon in 2011 – will continue to compete for the Citroën Total World Rally Team in 2012 and 2013 [see separate story – click here
The Frenchman will be 39 in 2013, and whilst he has refused to categorically rule out carrying on in the WRC into his fifth decade, he is at that stage widely-anticipated to call it a day in rallying and instead turn his focus to a 'second career' of sorts in sportscars and the Le Mans 24 Hours, which he has already entered twice in the past, finishing second outright with Pescarolo five years ago.
Loeb has admitted that he was tempted by the prospect of embarking upon a new challenge with VW – which is set to re-enter the World Rally Championship in 2013 with its Polo R following two seasons' of development and testing – and he met for discussions with both the German marque's motorsport director Kris Nissen and consultant Carlos Sainz, his team-mate at Citroën in 2003 and 2004.
However, the stumbling-block came in that the Alsacien was unwilling to be tied into a long-term contract with VW, and assuming he does elect to walk away from rallying at the end of 2013, he reasoned that to campaign the Polo R for just a single season would not have been worth the while. And then, of course, there was the loyalty factor – and ultimately, Loeb deemed that having built up a strong and tremendously successful relationship with Citroën over the past decade, he could not cast that away so close to the end of his career.
“The choice to stay with Citroën for sure wasn't easy,” he confessed, “because at the start of the season, I had the idea to stop rallying and go racing. During the season, though, I saw that my speed in rallies is still good and that maybe it's a bit too early to retire.
“Then, I had only two choices – to stay with Citroën or go with another manufacturer, Volkswagen. Both showed me that they wanted me to drive for them, but Citroën showed a lot of motivation to keep me – they explained to me that it's very important for the brand and for the future that I stay in the group. On the other side, if I left to Volkswagen, it would only have been for one year of competition, so to break the relationship I have with Citroën for only one year was I think not maybe the best choice – and for that I decided to stay in my team.”
It is understood that a clause in Loeb's new agreement with the French company means he can call it quits at the end of 2012 should he so desire, whilst understudy team-mate Sébastien Ogier looks to be in-line for a long-term Citroën future, and can only benefit from his elder countryman's continued development of the potent DS3 WRC.