Look beyond the surface though and a much more complex picture emerges. He may have won for the sixth time, but for the first time he wasn’t the quickest driver there.
That accolade fell to Jari-Matti Latvala, and as Ford team principal Malcolm Wilson correctly points out, if things had panned out only a little differently, then we could have been facing a very different picture.
The stark truth is that Latvala has been quicker than Loeb on every rally this year. Equally, he has two retirements behind him - which is the same as Loeb’s number of victories. And with a 40-point deficit in the championship to make up, he’d better start racking up more wins fast.
But not too fast. Because this might just be at the root of Latvala’s problems. As former Citroen boss Guy Frequelin recently pointed out, there are some drivers who can match Loeb for pure speed - and you would almost expect them to, as Loeb has the best part of 10 years on some of them. Yet nobody can match his phenomenal, metronomic consistency that is born out of his uncanny ability to read a road like no other person can. Loeb ‘only’ set six fastest stage times in Mexico; when Colin McRae won the Safari Rally in 1999 (which has gone down in history as one of his best wins ever) he didn’t set any. But that doesn’t matter, because as another famous Scot - Sir Jackie Stewart - says, winning is the art of finishing first by the smallest possible margin.
Clearly Sebastien Loeb has got one or two things still to learn about winning then - strange for a man who has just racked up his 69th career triumph - because 42 seconds is quite a comfortable cushion. But the fight was really over after the second loop of stages on Saturday, when Citroen had a firm word with their drivers telling them not to try anything stupid.
You have to admire the irrepressible spirit of Latvala: at the time when he went off, on the longest stage of the rally at 54 kilometres, he was more than 20 seconds up on his nearest rival. But with Hirvonen more than a minute ahead and only two stages to go (one of which was the Power Stage) what was he thinking of? Latvala had already achieved a miracle by battling to third despite his earlier problems; this time he was attempting the impossible.
That’s Loeb’s other strongest suit as a driver: he has a firm grasp of reality, both in life and in sport. It might be easy to think that Loeb was not the fastest in Mexico, but what if he was choosing not to be? The Frenchman described his driving as “middle of the road, nothing special” - and yet is it a coincidence that he had no punctures (Petter Solberg had four, by contrast) and zero mechanical problems?
A few years ago, one of the Citroen mechanics described how, when stripping down the cars after a rally, he could see just by looking at it which gearbox had come out of Loeb’s car and which was from former team-mate Dani Sordo’s. Loeb’s gearbox was almost always like new.
Let’s not underestimate Loeb’s current Citroen team-mate Mikko Hirvonen either, which could be easy to do as the likeable Finn is the very antithesis of a self-publicist. But he led the rally and was very close to Loeb’s times - on only his third rally in the DS3 WRC. He’s still learning to drive it, but says that the transparent nature of the way that the car behaves is teaching him more and more all the time. “I know that my stage times need to be more consistent, but I can see easily how that is happening,” he explained. “And once you are aware of what is happening, then you can find a way to fix it.”
At the post-event press conference, Loeb suggested that he didn’t think Hirvonen needed to work on his feeling with the car much more...and he was only half-joking.
With five gravel rallies coming up, it’s clear that the Frenchman has a lot to think about. When the Gods wish to punish us they grant us what we truly desire: Loeb knows that he can beat his rivals but it’s not going to be easy. The appetite for competition that he craved is shortly about to be sated.
“We’ve got a good position in the championship now,” commented Citroen’s new boss Yves Matton. “But I know from personal experience just how quickly that can all change.”
Mexico was all about endurance, thanks to three stages that were longer than 40 kilometres. With the searing heat and rough rocks it tested concentration as much as stamina: Latvala said that his mistake was down to being distracted by the sight of Evgeny Novikov’s car on its roof - shortly before he joined him. Other drivers said that they needed to pace themselves and even the organisers were taking no chances with the course car: there were two of them, with one setting off halfway through the stage in case the first one had a problem - or felt tired.
But 2011 Dakar winner Nasser Al-Attiyah put it all into the right perspective. “Sure, 54 kilometres is tough,” he pointed out. “But I remember once on the Dakar we had a stage that was more like 890 kilometres long and took 12 hours to finish. So really, 54 kilometres isn’t so bad when you think about it...”
Al-Attiyah’s was one of the standout performances of the rally, guiding his Qatar-backed Citroen home to sixth on only his second rally with it. But two people who really lit up the Mexican stages were the Monster World Rally Team duo of Ken Block and Chris Atkinson.
Both were unlucky in different ways: Block lost time with a puncture (but still finished a points-scoring ninth) while Atkinson went off on Saturday as a result of brake failure. Yet the two ‘hoonigans’ with their army of energy drink-fuelled supporters, were the spectators’ favourites. We can’t wait to see them back.