2010 World Rally: Loeb Aims For Seven Out Of Seven
Loeb Aims For Seven Out Of Seven As 2010 World Rally Season Kicks Off In Sweden
Click to enlarge
Sébastien Loeb, already by far and away the most successful rally driver of all time, will be aiming for a new record of seven consecutive World Rally Championship titles when the 2010 WRC season kicks off in Sweden this weekend (11-14 February 2010)
The ice and snow of Sweden used to offer cold comfort for the Citroën driver’s rivals, with the Scandinavian drivers dominating their home events, but Loeb proved that he was not the tarmac only expert sceptics though early in his career when, in 2004, he made the ultra difficult Swedish Rally his first ever non-tarmac win. The only consolation his rivals can draw is that he not won the event since.... but he has come second twice and he won in Norway’s snow last year!
“I like starting the season with this rally but it looks like the conditions are going to be very difficult,” says Loeb. “You just have to stay on the road, which isn’t all that easy when I think back to the 2008 rally. My only aim is to rack up another world title, but the way last season panned out shows that you can’t count your chickens before they’re hatched!”
Loeb’s team mate Dani Sordo’s season began a few days ago. In order to get back in the groove, the young Spaniard raced in the Arctic Lapland Rally, the opening round of the Finnish Championship. It was a success, as he set all the fastest times in the rally.
“It was a great way of boosting my confidence on this surface. Even though I didn’t really have any rivals there’s nothing like competition to get you back into the right rhythm and feel the reflexes coming back! Unlike a test session where we use the same route so we know it by heart, each special was a new challenge for me and I had to analyse the behaviour of the C4 WRC. The route was very similar to that of Rally Sweden so I feel absolutely ready.”
Dani’s main aim hasn’t changed in relation the previous seasons, which is a crucial factor in the conquest of the Manufacturers’ title.
“You have to be quick, consistent and score the maximum number of points in each rally. That’ll still be the case in 2010 but I want to push even harder. I’m really determined to win my first WRC rally this year. I know I can do it, and whether it comes in one of the asphalt rounds or the gravel events that I like very much such as Mexico, New Zealand or Portugal, doesn’t make any difference.”
No change has been the rule for the Citroën team during the off season, not least because rule changes mean that this is the last season for the all-conquering Citroën C4 WRC.
“You don’t change a winning team so we’re tackling 2010 with the same crew as the previous seasons. The final year of the World Rally Cars looks like being a great one for the World Championship - and for Citroën - which has a real dream team,” adds Olivier Quesnel, the Citroën Racing Team Principal. “The drivers of the five C4 WRCs entered this season have all been word champions in motor racing: namely, Sébastien Loeb, Dani Sordo, Sébastien Ogier, Kimi Raïkkönen, and Petter Solberg with his own team. Difficult to do much better!”
Three questions to Sébastien Loeb
Unlike most of your rivals in the world championship, you’re starting your season in Sweden. Is the lack of competition a handicap?
“Holidays are pretty good too! Between testing, prize-giving and promotions I’ve not had enough time to get bored since we last saw each other in Cardiff! I’m happy that I was able to take a breather, but the two days practice I did in Sweden got me back into the swing of things. Now I can’t wait to be at the start of the first special.”
What about the rally? As the winner of the last winter rally do you think you’re the favourite?
“The conditions will be very different to those of the 2008 event. Snow’s fallen on frozen gravel, the temperature hasn’t risen above zero and the snow hasn’t been transformed into a layer of ice. We’re faced with a layer of powdery snow covering frozen earth so the grip level is going to keep on changing. It’s a bit like Russian roulette, and I’d really prefer a good layer of ice with constant grip. I don’t think I’m the favourite, as the Finns will feel much more at home than me. But you just have to keep it between the hedges!”
You’re aiming for a seventh consecutive world title. Did the way the second half of the 2009 season panned out change your approach?
“Since I lost the title by one point (in 2003) I’ve always applied the same logic. Every point is vital when you want to win a championship as difficult as the WRC. The way things went last year only confirmed this viewpoint. This being said, when Lady Luck deserts you, there’s nothing you can do! With this season about to begin I’m still in the same frame of mind as last year. I’ll start every rally with the intention of winning it.”