22 Oct 08
Phil Mills, World Champion co-driver in 2003, thinks Elena's successes with Loeb are down to hard work, a solid - rather than ground breaking - pace note system and a good personality fit.
"The fact is you don't win 46 rallies unless you're a very, very good co-driver," says Mills. "But there's no magic formula; Daniel is a true professional and a hard grafter. Together with Seb he has developed a note system which works well, but like all of us he still has to work bloody hard late into the evenings to get it right. From what I know there's nothing revolutionary about their system; Daniel's left-handed, which makes the notes look a bit unusual on the page, but apart from that they're not doing anything radically different to the rest of us. Sebastien uses quite a lot of repeated notes for emphasis and a similar amount of description as Richard Burns used to. But there's really no right or wrong way with pace notes - you just do what you're comfortable with."
Outside the car, Mills thinks Loeb and Elena's contrasting personalities have helped ensure the longevity of the relationship. "They are two very different people but they work together well in the car; it's a lot like me and Petter," explained Mills. If you look back at other driver/co-driver relationships in the past, the ones where you get two similar characters tend to be the ones which go sour. I spent 220 days with Petter last year, but because we do such different things we always have something to talk about!?
But what of the man himself? We spoke to Daniel after the Tour de Corse to ask him about his partnership with Seb and to find out why he thinks the formula works so well.
How did you feel when you and Seb were signed to Citroen?
It was a dream to come to Citroen. When I was younger I wanted to practise motorsports, whether as a driver, co-driver or mechanic; I wanted to live with this sport. So when they contacted Seb and I for the first contract it was a dream. To begin with it wasn't easy. All of a sudden there were people working to help us with everything. It was incredible. And I was working for the same team as Jean Paul Chiaroni [co-driver to Citroen driver Philippe Bugalski] who for me was the best co-driver in the world. When I arrived in the team for the first time I had money in the bank and I thought okay, I have to work now.
What do you think makes Sebastien such a good driver?
Because he drives with his brain. Look at the statistics and you'll see he doesn't spend a lot of time off the road. Even if something goes wrong he keeps his head; never nervous or panicking. It's always okay.
Why does your partnership work so well?
Sebastien is my friend and has been for a long time. And I think we're a good mix. Okay, I might be a funny guy when I'm not co-driving but when I get in the car I'm just the same as Sebastien. When I'm in the co-driver's seat it's work, it's our job and it's maximum concentration. It might sound strange but Seb is ice and I'm fire; when you join us it's a very good temperature.