Citroen's Sebastien Loeb was delighted after securing his eighth WRC drivers' title on Friday, although he conceded it was 'strange' to win it mid-day through an event.
Loeb and Mikko Hirvonen arrived for Wales Rally GB, the final round in the 2011 World Rally Championship, with the former eight points in front. Initially it looked like there would be a great duel, however, in SS7 Hirvonen went off the road and damaged the radiator on his Fiesta RS WRC car. That realistically ended his hopes and when Ford finally confirmed he wouldn't be able to rejoin under the SupeRally, it put the matter beyond doubt.
“For sure it's a great moment to be eight-times World Champion but it is also strange to have this in the middle of a rally. You can't have a drink, you just have to get in the car, still get up early and continue the rally,” Loeb said in Friday's end of day press conference.
“So it's a bit of a strange atmosphere but for sure I can really relax now. It was complicated this morning because Mikko was very fast and we had to take risks to keep the rhythm and so anything could have happened.
“But finally he made a mistake and now I am World Champion again.”
So will he try and win Rally GB now?
“Yes, for sure!” Loeb replied. “I have to try. It's not my main goal though. I came here to win the Championship so now it's done.
“Really I don't think too much about tomorrow, but it will be an interesting start. We will have to push.”
Asked about the year in general, Seb conceded it hasn't been easy, especially the second half of the year, with a puncture in Germany, his crash in Australia and an engine failure in France.
“It has been a tough year,” he continued, ”and we have had some fights in the team so it was a great fight. But the main danger has come from Hirvonen at the end of the season.”
Citroen team manager Olivier Quesnel meanwhile hailed Loeb's eighth title as 'incredible': “It is a great result for Seb because I think he is the only one who has so many titles. Even Michael Schumacher stopped at seven and Seb will still drive for Citroen next year so maybe nine, we will see!” Quesnel stated.
“The last rally in Spain, Citroen won the [manufacturers'] World Championship for the seventh time and for the last fifteen days Citroen and Seb were at the same level.
“But now he has one more with eight - and... I don't know what to say – it is incredible.”