OGIER TAKES OVER
Sebastien Loeb ended his World Rally
Championship career at the very top, with a
ninth title. For the 39-year-old Frenchman,
the chapter was closed at the end of 2012.
This season was just a four-part encore
and nothing more. Loeb’s deal was done;
racing in the World Touring Car
Championship is his future now, regardless
of how the rest of us would have savored
a season-long, all-French Seb scrap.
He makes no bones about the fact he had
to be persuaded back into a Citroën DS3
WRC for this year. Surrounded by family,
friends and fans, on the stage in Strasbourg’s
Zenith Arena at the end of October’s Rallye
de France, he’s pretty pleased he did.
A few hours earlier on the final, final, day
of his WRC career, Loeb had roofed the DS3
and departed what would be his final
special stage on foot. As a co-driver, it’s
Daniel Elena’s job to find the right words at
the right moment. He didn’t disappoint.
Dangling from his belts alongside his
au revoir, sebastien v1.0
good friend, Elena offered: “Eh bien voilà.”
with another victory. Maybe a lack of match
practice had caught up with Loeb.
Rustiness was one reason, the other was
the onset of the understudy. Is it fair to label
Loeb and Sebastien Ogier as teacher and
pupil? Maybe, except they fell out in such
sensational fashion in 2011 that had Loeb
been the master, it’s likely Ogier would have
been thrown out of school, not just the class.
Since those troubled times as
teammates, the pair have grown to respect
each other tremendously. In Monte Carlo,
on his debut with the Volkswagen Polo R
WRC, Ogier’s joy at second was tempered
slightly by the continued questioning of his
feelings at finishing behind Loeb again.
Ogier answered emphatically in Sweden by
reversing the positions. The next time the
pair met was Argentina, a couple of rounds
(and Ogier wins) later. Loeb won. Two-one.
And then they came home. And Ogier
was crowned champion in Loeb’s Alsace
backyard. Loeb might have lost the rally and
his title to Ogier, but the people remained his.
As has been the case through his career,
humility came easily to Loeb.
“I’m really sorry for Daniel,” he said. “He
ends his last rally with his office on its roof.”
And with that, he wiped a tear from his
eye and walked away.
Citroën’s rally dominator Seb Loeb didn’t want a “farewell tour.” But four 2013 events proved he still has it.
Well, that’s that then...
Starting the final day, Loeb was five
seconds off the lead, at the back of a
four-way fight. Had time caught up with him?
Possibly, 12 months ago they would
have bossed this rally; nobody would have
seen them coming before they ran away
“Dangling from his belts
alongside his good friend,
co-driver Daniel elena
offered: ‘Eh bien voilà’”
(MAIN) Sebastien Loeb heads to
his 78th and final WRC win,
Argentina 2013. The first came in
Germany in 2002 (ABOVE), and
every single one was in a Citroën.