Sat, 15/09/2018 - 18:30
Sébastien Loeb does not hide the fact that he is still learning in rallycross: a very specific discipline that’s halfway between rallying and circuit racing. Yet he still managed to win a round in only his 1st full season of WRX, back in 2016, and the venue was none other than Riga, in Latvia: where this weekend’s 9th round of the 2018 championship is taking place. Let’s revisit the career of the Team PEUGEOT Total WRX driver…

Sebastien Loeb began his full-time FIA World Rallycross career in 2016: an opportunity that was given to him by PEUGEOT Sport. The Frenchman came into the WRX as a 9-time World Rally Champion, who had driven everything from Formula 1 cars to Le Mans prototypes, with nothing to prove. He chose rallycross for a variety of reasons: to experience a new challenge of nearly 600 horsepower (almost 200 horsepower more than on a WRC car, for the same dimension and weight settings), and also to spend a bit more time at home away from the relentless travel schedule of the World Rally Championship. “Although in the end; it didn’t quite work out like that!” remembers Sebastien. “I was doing my cross country programme with PEUGEOT at the same time as rallycross in 2016, so I probably ended up doing even more travel than I did before…!”
It did not take long for Loeb – part of Team PEUGEOT Hansen at the time – to confirm his status in rallycross: on October 2, 2016, he stood on the top step of the podium at round 10 of the World RX season in Latvia. “Obviously I’ve got very good memories of this place and this race,” recounts Sebastien. “Especially as it was my 1st win and my chief mechanic at the time was from Latvia, so this was a special victory at home for him. I’ve always had a good feeling on this track, right from the very beginning.”
The PEUGEOT 208 WRX seems to perform well on the demanding Riga circuit: especially when it comes to grip, even when it rains. “It was raining when I won, but I was still quite surprised by the level of grip we had,” explains Loeb. “That’s always been a big strength of the 208 WRX – speed and stability on high-grip surfaces – but of course our car has changed considerably since then, so let’s wait and see if that is still a strength this year. I hope so. In my opinion, we can go a long way with this 208 WRX EVO.”
After his podium finish in Riga in 2017 as well, Loeb is expected to put in another strong performance in Latvia this year, as he’s the only driver so far to have deprived Johan Kristoffersson of a win this season (on round 3 in Belgium). “If you’re quick somewhere in rallycross, you need to make the most of the opportunity,” he adds. “This helps you put together a sequence of good races in qualifying, which leads you to a good position on the grid for the semi-final and final. When you have a particularly good feeling with the car and the track, it gives you confidence, so you push harder: right up to your top performance. It’s not a very precise explanation, but it can just happen this way, and this has always been the case here for me in Riga.”
The Bikernieki venue is a fast and technical circuit, where the drivers have to really engage with the track. “I’m not a driver who takes big risks; I tend to think a lot about what I do,” concludes Loeb. “You have to know how hard you can push: exactly what you can get away with.”
The key to success at WRX is ensuring a clean but fast weekend from start to finish. And victory will be the objective for Sebastien once more this weekend, now with the PEUGEOT 208 WRX Evo, in the debut year for PEUGEOT’s new FIA World Rallycross Championship programme.

RX Latvia on September – Round 9 of FIA World RX (GMT +3):
Sunday September 16th
  • 08:45   Warm up
  • 09:45   Quali 3
  • 11:00   Quali 4
  • 15:00   Semi-finals
  • 15:40   Final

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