Sebastien Loeb is undoubtedly one of the most legendary figures in the world of motorsports – he is the 9-time world rally champion and has also reached impressive results in touring, rallycross, GT racing as well as Dakar Rally. Currently, he is driving at X44 in Extreme E.
Earlier this week, ASN Motorsports has talked with Sebastien Loeb about his career so far and future plans.
Loeb is a part of the inaugural Extreme E season and he admits that the championship has brought him plenty of new experience.
“I wanted to enter Extreme E because it was something completely new, completely different from all the motorsports that I did before,” he said. “There is a fully electric car, I had just a little experience of this kind of car in France, but full championship in an electric car is something new for me.”
“To share the car with another driver is also a new experience and the context and the places where we go are just amazing. So, for me, there were a lot of new things to discover and at the moment I enjoy the races, it’s a good fight. We have very talented drivers, it’s really tough. So yes, I enjoy riding it.”
In the first three Extreme E events, X44 was on top in every qualifying session but was yet to win the main event. Despite the issues in the final races, Loeb is delighted with the team’s performance so far, although admits that some areas could be improved.
“I think we have good performance. We won the quali every weekend, so that’s great because that shows that we have good speed. Then, in the final, it’s different always, because you have the start, you have different cars on the track and we weren’t so lucky in the last one [Arctic X-Prix]. Also, in Senegal, where Cristina [Gutierrez, Loeb’s X44 teammate] broke the wishbone of the car when there was just a little contact.”
“So, the car is maybe not strong enough from this side at the moment. In the last race, we had a puncture as we were leading the final, so we [are] not really lucky to achieve what we would like to, but we have still two races to go.”
“I’m quite happy how it works at the moment, we didn’t have a lot of technical problems, so the team is doing a good job and we’re still in the fight for the championship, so we will continue to fight in Sardinia. Hopefully, we will be able to win a final one day, that’s the goal until the end of the season.”
Sebastien Loeb has participated in many championships, but Extreme E is not like any other. He spoke about the differences, emphasizing that sharing the fully electric car with another driver and the series’ purpose are among the main peculiarities.
“Like I said, it’s fully electric, so that’s something new. We share the car, it’s a split race with two drivers, so that’s also something completely new for me. On the other side, I think they [Extreme E] follow the evolution of the world because we have more electric cars on the road and I think motorsports has to improve in this way,” Loeb explained.
“They always care about the ecological side and that’s something new for me in motorsports, because they always try to have a positive impact on the place where we go. Sometimes, it’s planting trees, analyzing the ice. It’s different action, but they always want to leave the place with positive action and that’s something I think is good.”
It has been more than 22 years since Loeb’s debut in the World Rally Championship, but he is still looking for new opportunities and challenges at the highest level. The Frenchman assures that he loves racing as much as before.
“It’s just my passion, I like to drive, I like races. I don’t need to find special motivation, because when I’m sitting in the car with a helmet [on], I’m motivated naturally because I like what I do.”
“I continue because it’s still my passion. I like it, I like to go on race weekends and fight, that’s it.”
Alongside Extreme E commitments, Loeb is preparing for the 2022 Dakar Rally with Bahrain Raid Xtreme. As several months are left before the event, the 2017 runner-up in the car category with Peugeot is training for the rally.
“From now on, we will have a lot of testing and driving. We will do the first testing in Dubai, then a rally in Abu Dhabi, then testing in Saudi Arabia, plus another rally in Saudi Arabia at the beginning of December, so busy schedule before the start of Dakar.”
“We’re trying the new car at the moment, my teammate Nani Roma did it [testing]. It seems that it works well, the feeling was good, so the preparation is looking good.”
When asked whether Extreme E activities make any impact on training for Dakar, Loeb said: “I don’t think really, because we don’t do a lot of kilometer [testing].”
“For Dakar, we do a lot of kilometer, so it’s a bit different, just makes it busier at the end of the season with two rallies and two Extreme E events, so it’s quite busy until the end of the year, but it’s good.”
Sebastien Loeb will have special experience next year in the Arabian desert as he will drive the Prodrive Hunter T1+ car, which will have sustainable fuel. Though it is a big change for the sport, Loeb doubts there will be any difference in terms of driving the vehicle.
“Honestly, as a driver in the car, I don’t think we’ll have a big change. The good change is that sustainable fuel and that’s the evolution of the car, it will be as fast as before,” he commented.
“Plus, the new evolution of the regulations with big wheels, wide travel of suspension, wider cars, so I think the evolution is going in a good way and I’m looking forward to driving the car. For sure, it will be very fun to drive, so I’m looking forward to being in Dakar with it.”
The 2021 Dakar Rally is the one to forget for Loeb as he has not made it to the finish line. However, with more experience and the new car, the Frenchman has the same goal – to succeed.
“For sure, we’re as motivated. Last year, it was the first year of Prodrive driving in Dakar, so we were discovering a lot of things.”
“I think the performance was not so bad, we had some little issues, but nothing really bad. [Though], in Dakar, even a little issue can be bad, so we couldn’t reach the end of the race, but I think the experience we took there will be very beneficial for this year and now that we have driven there, we have much more experience.”
“Hopefully, it will be beneficial and hopefully, we’ll be in the right rhythm to fight for the victory.”
ASN Motorsports would like to thank Sebastien Loeb for spending some time with us and the X44 communication manager Jessica Sykes for making the interview possible.