On the basis of what he did on last week’s Acropolis Rally, there can be little doubt the Frenchman would have waltzed his way from one side to the other.
The eight-time world champion was on sublime form for the 71st time in the FIA World Rally Championship powered by Nokia in Greece last week, steering his Citroen DS3 WRC to a comfortable victory from team-mate Mikko Hirvonen.
But it wasn’t always that comfortable. And it was in the fight for the first two days where Loeb showed his true class.
Ahead of the event, the big news was Jari-Matti Latvala and 10 centimetres of titanium sitting just beneath his shirt. The Rally Sweden winner was back, but pretty much ruling out the potential for him to win the event.
And after telling everybody how unlikely a second 2012 win was, he underlined the fact by taking the lead immediately. And holding it until a fourth stage overshoot.
And the good news for Jari-Matti was that the painkillers remained in the packet and unused. The bad news was that, in the middle of another white-hot fight, he slid his Ford Fiesta RS WRC wide and punctured the right-rear Michelin. His chance was gone.
There would be a terrible sense od de ja vu at Ford just under a day later when Petter Solberg pushed too hard and removed the opposing corner from his car.
Both Fiesta RS WRC drivers had come close to Loeb. Both had rattled the champion’s cage, but neither had been able to complete the job.
In Greece, Loeb was just too good. He admitted with trademark openness that he had struggled to stay with his rivals in the rain and on the roughest of the rough stuff, but he’d played the long game on both occasions. And, not for the first time, his (very) short-term pain of dropping a tenth here and there paid handsomely in the longer-term.
On Friday morning, Loeb’s team-mate Mikko Hirvonen was right in the thick of things. Unfortunately for the Finn, he then caught Mads Ostberg’s dust after the Vodafone Rally de Portugal winner had returned to the road after a three-minute stay in a frustratingly shallow ninth-stage ditch.
That cost him half a minute, but it was the drying conditions which really did for the number two DS3 WRC. As the grip improved from the Greek roads, Hirvonen found himself struggling with the best way to use that extra traction. Shipping more time, he then did the sensible thing and throttled back to take what he fully expected to be third place until he got, “a present from Ford,” on Sunday morning. That present was a gift-wrapped leg-up to the middle step.
Hirvonen was, by his own admission, below par on the Acropolis, but once again he demonstrated a massive level of maturity and instead of fighting it, he used his time to learn from it and move on, while simultaneously banking a load of points for his employer.
Despite struggling to find the right set-up on day one - which was part of the reason why he slipped off the road - Ostberg battled back brilliantly once the sun came out to make it six events on the bounce that he has finished in the top four. No Fiesta RS WRC driver can boast such outstanding consistency.
Ostberg’s plight to maintain his exceptional statistic was helped in no small part by a troubled run for fellow Fiesta man Evgeny Novikov. Having scored his first ever fastest time in the WRC on this event in 2009, the Russian star was looking forward to his Greek outing.
And he was immediately on the pace on Friday morning. Unfortunately, a number of issues hindered his progress for the rest of the event, including a loose turbo pipe and water-pump problem.
Novikov’s loss wasn’t just Ostberg’s gain, but Martin Prokop’s too. Having collected fourth last time out in South America, the Czech Republic man was fifth in Greece - another driver enjoying a real purple patch right now.
On the flip side, Ott Tanak’s torrid time continues - the Estonian went off the road on the opening day, but returned to collect ninth in his M-Sport Fiesta.
The Citroen semi-works drivers endured a mixed bag, with Thierry Neuville’s promising run stymied by a broken driveshaft, while Nasser Al-Attiyah rolled his DS3 WRC out of the event on the final morning having stopped on day two with a broken driveshaft of his own.
After a thrilling fight between the two factory Volkswagen-run Skodas in Argentina, Sebastien Ogier got the upper hand on a rally he won last year. His team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen admitted it would be tough to stick with Ogier’s pace on an event he was contesting for the first time and, while the Norwegian was never too far from the French Fabia, knocking a wheel off on the final day lost him his chance of a top-10 finish. Ogier, however, turned in a fine drive to place his car seventh overall.
Yazeed Al-Rajhi made history by collecting the first ever world championship points for a Regional Rally Car, by taking eighth in his Fiesta.
Valeriy Gorban won a typically tough PWRC round in his Mitsubishi, after Nicolas Fuchs’ dropped out with damaged suspension with two stages left to run.
The WRC Academy round was all about the Brits, with Elfyn Evans and Alastair Fisher bringing their Fiesta R2s home in a one-two. Credit, however, must got to M-Sport for preparing such bullet-proof cars for the young stars to show their potential.
Evans led from the second stage, while Fisher survived a final-morning roll to land the runner-up spot, ensuring he remains at the top of the Academy standings.
Once again, the Acropolis Rally had proved to be an absolute thrilling round of the WRC - but once again, the master of them all was Loeb. His third Acropolis win was just as hard-earned and well deserved as those which had gone before.