A nine-time World Rally champion, Loeb is joining the Peugeot-Total rally raid team to take part in the Dakar, the toughest off-road rally in the world. The Frenchman is joining a formidable team of Dakar champions, including Stéphane Peterhansel, Cyril Despres and Carlos Sainz.
Here are some of rally legend Sébastien Loeb comments as preparations continue for his Rally Dakar debut in 2016:
About the Rally Dakar
“The first thing I think of when speaking about the Dakar is a picture I had in my room when I was young, with the 205 Yellow from the Dakar, from the past. I always tried to watch it since that, and I was attracted by the adventure that it could be.
“Rally raid is really different from what I’ve done so far. Driving in the desert with a very impressive car must give specific sensations. The race will be very long – more than two weeks – so you need to have endurance to preserve the driver and the car. It’s another approach but I will discover that in January. You need to understand exactly where are the limits of the car (…) as well as driving without knowing where to go – in rally racing I used to know where to look. Here you are flat out in the desert, in the middle of nowhere. That’s something completely new for me.”
About Peugeot’s “Dream Team”
“I was really well welcomed in the team by the other drivers. I know some of them quite well: Carlos was my team-mate for a few years in the Citroen Team and I’ve known Cyril for a few years too. We’ve had some good times together, doing motorbike.”
About the new Peugeot 2008DKR
“It’s a new car compared to the 2015 model. They’ve done a lot of improvement. It’s much lighter, the engine is more powerful, the chassis is wider so the stability of the car is better and it’s longer so the inertia of the car is reduced. I think all these evolutions are going in the right direction; it will be much faster than the old car. The sensations are really different from what I’m used to – the car is much bigger and heavier than a WRC car, so its handling is not the same. But the suspension is working incredibly well and you can go through big holes without feeling anything. That takes time for the driver to get used to.”
About his co-driver Daniel Elena
“Daniel wasn’t the logical choice – it would have been logical to choose an experienced co-driver, but to do it with Daniel is something special. He has always been with me in my rallies so it’s a nice story to continue together. (…) But I don’t think the friendship between Daniel and I can replace experience. (…) If we want to achieve our target, the only way is to work hard. It’s not just about the friendship – it’s a lot of work.”
About his fears
“I am a bit afraid to get lost in the desert with Daniel, but that’s part of the game and that’s why we prepare as well as possible. At the moment, I’m afraid, but I hope we will be ready before the Dakar, I hope we will be confident. I hope I will be able to fight and understand how it works but for that, you need some experience.”
About his goals
“The first thing I want to achieve is to gain some experience. For that I need to drive, not crash immediately, get the car on the road, take the time to understand how it works, find a good working relation with the co-driver to be able to trust him. And when everything will be ready, then we may push harder and try to fight with the others. It’s difficult for me to know what my real level will be in a new discipline in front of experienced drivers.
“I know that some drivers have won the race for their first participation in the past, but the conditions weren’t the same – they arrived with the best car and won immediately. Now, our rivals are really strong. I also have some of the best drivers in my team with a lot of experience so I think it’s a bit too early to dream about that.
“For sure I hope I will be able to win Dakar one day – I will work for it and we will see. When I do something, the goal is to win. But I don’t know what I will do in 10 years – at the moment I just drive because I’m motivated and I like what I do. I don’t imagine my life without driving.”