SÉBASTIEN LOEB: WHY I’M BACK IN WORLD RX
Yesterday’s announcement that Sébastien Loeb will rejoin the FIA World Rallycross Championship with Special ONE Racing in a Lancia Delta Evo-e RX has generated tremendous excitement amongst fans, who have not seen the Frenchman in action in the discipline’s top flight since 2018. Here, he explains in his own words why he has decided to return…
I didn’t have any plans to come back to World RX when I first drove in rally-raid with Guerlain [Chicherit], but we spoke a lot and he was really enthusiastic about this project and convinced me that it could be a great adventure.
I have always had good memories of my time competing in World RX. I had a lot of fun, the races were exciting and when Peugeot took the decision to withdraw, I was a bit disappointed because I was enjoying it and planning to continue.
Since then, I’ve done a lot of different and interesting things, from Dakar to Extreme E – and earlier this year, Guerlain made me a proposal. I’ve known him for a long time, of course, but I’ve got to know him even better since we’ve been team-mates in cross-country rallies.
We had the opportunity to spend some time together, and he told me how excited he was about the Lancia’s first World RX event last year at the Nürburgring. He said it was a great experience and that he would like to have me in the team. I was at a point during my season where I needed to take some decisions for the future and I had the feeling this could be a lot of fun, so I thought about it for about half-a-minute and then agreed to follow him in his new challenge. The story was nice and I decided to go for it!
The Lancia has a lot of memories for me. Before I started to compete in rallying, I didn’t have a lot of knowledge about the sport, to be truthful. For sure, I knew about the Lancia Delta HF and S4 in Group B with Didier Auriol, Miki Biasion and so on, but it was a bit before my time. For me, my biggest memory is of the road car, because when I was out in my little Renault 5 Turbo, I would see Lancia Delta HF Integrales and used to dream about driving one myself. I didn’t have the money to buy one, but it was an iconic car. Now I have the chance to sit in a very special version, which is really cool.
We are basically starting from zero with this car, and I’m very motivated to help develop and race the Special ONE Racing Delta Evo-e RX in World RX. Honestly, when I was driving in the championship before, we didn’t really have the performance to match the agility or speed of the Volkswagen Polo and Johan Kristoffersson. Now, we have a completely new project and the aim is to take the fight to him. I don’t know where we will start from as we have no prior reference, but the team is strong and I hope that we have a good base and can be competitive and challenging for victories.
A few of the drivers I already know, like Johan and the Hansen brothers. They are all very tough competitors. The others I don’t know so well, but I’m just trying to concentrate on my side to prepare as well as possible and to be ready, and hopefully we will be able to battle with these guys. That’s the target, for sure.
I’m happy to be going back to some legendary tracks like the Estering, Lydden Hill and Mettet, where there is a lot of passion for rallycross, and I have some good memories from racing in South Africa. I always look forward to discovering new places as well, so it will be good to go to Hong Kong; hopefully the fans there will enjoy what we do and create a good atmosphere. I have previously raced in Macau, where the enthusiasm for motorsport is really high, so I think it can be a successful event.
World RX has a lot of fans who have been passionate about motorsport for a long time, and to take the step to electric was maybe not what they all wanted, but it’s a fact that the automotive industry in general is heading in this direction and given the role motorsport plays in road car innovations, the competition has to follow.
It’s a little bit the evolution of the world, so I think it’s normal to go to electric and rallycross is the best-suited discipline for this, because we have a lot of power and the races are short, meaning range isn’t a problem. The cars are also really exciting to drive and share a lot of common elements. With a front motor and rear motor but no propshaft, the development is very different to what we have all been used to with combustion vehicles... For me, World RX is the perfect platform to promote electric cars and I believe we have an opportunity to attract a new generation of fans. The fights are great and the format of the racing is well-suited to a young audience. The show on the track is amazing – I think the races are even more spectacular than before – and while we still need to do some work on everything around that, with just a few little adaptations, I think the future for rallycross can be very bright. As to my own participation, at the moment, it’s a single-year deal – but we obviously all hope it will work out well and that we can make it more long-term. Let’s see...