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Loeb the pioneer

3 years ago

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Dan Prosser | Ti co-founder


9 April 2021

There have been many multiple world champions over the decades, but fewer driver-pioneers. By that I mean motorsport competitors who have not only dominated their chosen disciplines, but done so by comprehensively changing the kind of driving style that’s necessary to win. Sebastien Loeb is unquestionably a driver-pioneer.

He signalled his arrival in the World Rally Championship’s top-flight in 2001, fresh-faced at 27 years old. (By today’s standard he’d have been one of the series’ most established drivers by the age of 27, but things were different back then. Besides, he didn’t actually compete in his first rally of any kind until he was 21). In 2001, the same year he won the junior world title, Loeb made his debut appearance on the full WRC podium when he finished second on Rallye Sanremo in Italy behind tarmac specialist Gilles Panizzi.

That was only his third go in a full-spec WRC machine. Behind him on that event were Auriol, Sainz, Delecour, Gronholm and McRae, while Burns, that year’s eventual champion, and Makinen were retirees. This kid clearly had something.

A season later, Loeb became a WRC rally winner while still only contesting a part-time campaign. In his first full year as a factory driver in 2003, the Citroen man finished second in the championship standings – a single point behind Petter Solberg.

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