Sebastien Loeb admits he was surprised by the performance of Citroen's new World Touring Car Championship challenger after his first run in the car he will use for his move into the series next year.
Having previously run in a modified version of the French manufacturer's WRC machine, Loeb was able to sample the new C-Elysee during a test at the Val de Vienne circuit in France, with an intensive development programme now in place through the rest of the year.
Speaking following the test, Loeb said he was impressed by his early time in the car even though there remains plenty to do before it makes its competitive debut next year.
“I had a good felling with the WRC modified car,” he told Eurosport
, “and finally when we tested for the first time the real WTCC car I was already at ease with it. Obviously I found it a lot better, as the team has improved a lot of little things. I was quite surprised and happy with the handling and balance.
“We are currently trying to find the best way to test and build up experience, as the team and myself are starting from scratch in WTCC. We don't know many of the tracks where the championship is racing and we want to learn. I hope we will be able to test on some of the usual WTCC circuits before the beginning of the season.”
With Loeb having already carried out a number of circuit races in GT and prototype machinery, some are tipping the nine-time WRC title winner to be a contender for top honours when he makes his World Touring Car Championship debut.
However, the 39-year-old insisted it was important to keep expectations in check when it comes to what may be possible.
“I know that many people expect me to win in WTCC just because I have won so much in rally,” he said. “However, at this level switching is not an easy task and the case of Kimi Raikkonen is the perfect example: he switched to rally and was not able to win, then came back to F1 and was a winner again.
“For sure it's a big change for me, but I am doing it with the will to be competitive. I will do my best and I don't know how much it will take. It will be difficult to be on top from the beginning, because for the time being I have the same racing experience a guy like Yvan Muller had when he was a teenager...”