Sebastien Loeb is stepping away from the World Touring Car Championship with the all-conquering factory Citroen squad to leave the series at the end of the 2016 campaign.
The announcement comes in a bumper raft of changes at Citroen which has pulled out its factory efforts from the World Rally Championship for 2016 to concentrate on developing a car for the 2017 campaign ahead of a series of regulation changes.
On top of the news, Loeb will leave the WTCC Citroen squad to pursue other racing challenges and is preparing to take part in the Dakar Rally alongside long-time co-driver Daniel Elena for Peugeot.
The nine-time WRC champion, who has also competed at Le Mans 24 Hours, Pikes Peak and various GT championships, has spent the past two seasons racing for Citroen in WTCC and despite notching up multiple victories has been unable to claim a maiden WTCC crown.
Next week's season finale in Qatar, where Loeb will look to secure the runner-up spot in the championship after his team-mate Jose Maria Lopez claimed the title last time out in Thailand, will be Loeb's final WTCC event and says he'll miss the success and drive he's enjoyed with Citroen over the past 15 years.
“This marks the end of one chapter for me, but what I want to focus on today is my satisfaction at having participated in Citroen's success in the WRC and WTCC,” Loeb said. “Apart from the figures and the records, we have shared some magnificent experiences together. It's hard to believe that most of the members of this amazing team were already here fifteen years ago!
“I'll miss their hunger for success and limitless motivation, but I won't be far away. I'm staying within the PSA Peugeot Citroen group to take on a new challenge.”
Citroen CEO Linda Jackson thanked Loeb for his tireless work and success over the past one-and-a-half decades and wishes the French star a bright future.
“In the last fifteen years, Sebastien Loeb and Citroen have made history together. It has been an absolutely incredible period that will leaving a lasting mark in the world of motorsport,” Jackson said. “We would like to thank him for all these wins, titles and records, which have helped to renew the Brand and boost its international reputation.
Sebastien is now about to embark on a new adventure with another brand in the group. We wish them lots of success together, starting with next year's Dakar Rally.”
As a result of Loeb's departure, Citroen's factory squad will slim down to two cars with Lopez and Yvan Muller, before pulling out of WTCC altogether at the end of next season.
Citroen team principal Yves Matton is aiming for a successful end to the French manufacturer's three-year stay, having claimed the manufacturers' and drivers' title in both 2013 and 2014.
“Still determined to make the most of our resources, we will de defending our titles with a team of two works cars,” Matton said. “With the arrival of a new, ambitious manufacturer, we are expecting the competition to be even tougher next year. Pechito and Yvan are used to working together and making the success of the team their number one priority.
“Next year, they will need to be even more together to enable Citroen to conclude its programme successfully. Other Citroën C-Elysee WTCCs may be entered by the Sebastien Loeb Racing team for private drivers.”