Anyone who’s been following Sébastien Loeb since his World Rally Championship days knows that he’s a beast, and he’s been proving that all over again at this year’s Dakar Rally. He rolled on Stage 8, but he and co-driver Daniel Elena managed to put the car back together to limp to the end of the stage.
Loeb wasn’t really fired from Citroën per se despite his surprise that they weren’t keeping him in the World Touring Car Championship. Citroën WTCC team principal Yves Matton told Autosport that the whole ordeal had been blown out of proportion, and that a move to Citroën’s sister brand Peugeot for Dakar was “not some sort of plan B,” but rather, a way to get the most out of Loeb’s off-road talents.
Smart move! Loeb has won several stages in his Peugeot so far, which bizarrely surprised the Dakar commentators but not anyone who remembers his nine-championship-winning streak of domination in the WRC. He was looking hard to beat until he encountered bad luck this week.
First, Loeb lost some time when he got stuck in the sand, and then this happened:
Perhaps the larger size of the Dakar beast got to him—or a nasty dip in the ground. (Probably the latter.) After all, WRC cars have shrunk to the point where they’re based on Mirage-sized subcompacts. Either way, Loeb smashed off both ends of his racer to make it a bit more fun-sized in the roll. The Automobilist compared Loeb’s crash-modified Peugeot to a Smart car on Facebook. I just see it as the continued downsizing of rally cars.
Team Smart: coming to rule the Dakar Rally next year, right? Maybe BMW can bring the Isetta back for maximum off-road domination.
Loeb, however, blamed the dip to Motorsport.com:
What happened was there was a dip and I didn’t see it. We arrived on [the dip], fell in and it threw the car off balance - and we rolled.
We broke a lot of things on the car. We had to change two wheels and change the transmission so, for sure, we lost a lot of time.
Despite initial reports that said Loeb was waiting for assistance after his roll, he didn’t need it. The Peugeot duo was able to repair their car and limp back to the end of the stage. That’s just what you do.
Loeb, however, thinks his shot at an overall win at Dakar is over, telling Motorsport.com after Stage 8:
It’s finished for overall victory. I still have to take the experience. We came here to get experience first and foremost.
It was only 10 kilometres from the end of the stage. It’s a bit frustrating, but that’s life, so we have to continue now.
Dunes seem to be Loeb’s weakness, err, greatest opportunity to learn. as he got stuck in the sand on Stage 9 as well:
That’s rally. Loeb isn’t even near the top of the standings anymore after Stages 8 and 9, but everyone knows he’ll probably be even more unstoppable next year, should he try it again.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.