In his own words, he was more interested in motorbikes than girls, didn’t have much of a clue about what he wanted to do in life, and was plagued by a series of problems with his first road cars, all of which mysteriously “broke”. Competitive rallying didn’t even enter his life until he was 21, making him an incredibly late starter.
The one thing that Loeb was recognised for was gymnastics, which rapidly propelled him through the ranks of the child prodigies in his home town of Haguenau (he started at the tender age of three) to competitions at national level, where at one point he was ranked number five in France.
His father was also a well-known gymnast, inspiring young Sebastien towards a discipline that probably made a significant contribution to his subsequent FIA World Rally Championship success with Citroen.
“I get asked that a lot,” says Loeb, the eight-time world champion. “I think the answer is that the skills I have from gymnastics don’t directly make a difference - driving a rally car is very different from doing the parallel bars after all - but the things that you learn around it, like balance and discipline, probably help.”
There is one direct advantage though: Loeb is famous for doing somersaults on the podium from time to time when he wins a rally. And we’d like to see any other drivers try that without making public fools of themselves...