The nine-time World Champion is unbeaten in Argentina since 2005, and is aiming to maintain his record-breaking run with an eighth victory when the rally concludes next Saturday (4 May)
To do that, however, he’ll first have to beat Sebastien Ogier the man who has dominated the last three rallies in a Volkswagen Polo R.
But while Ogier was at the top of his WRC game just a fortnight ago in Portugal, Loeb’s racing commitments ahead of a WTCC campaign with Citroen in 2014 have kept him out of a gravel-spec rally car for months.
Will Loeb take a while to get back up to speed again? Here’s what he had to say before he headed to Argentina.
Q: You seem to have been very busy in the last few weeks. Have you had any time to relax?
SL: “Not really… Whenever I thought I’d have some free time, I found myself busy, more often than not at the wheel of a racing car! After Argentina, I’ve got another four racing weekends. I think I’ll only be spending something like two days at home in May. But I can’t really complain – I was the one that chose to accept the opportunities that came up. I’m even busier than I have been in recent years, but it means I can work on my ability to adapt and acquire some experience geared towards the plans I share with Citroën. This was the year that we had to do all of this. I can learn how to do nothing later…”
Q: Did you get the chance to follow Rally Mexico or Rally Portugal? What did you think about them?
SL: “Obviously, I watched the rallies and saw how they went. It wasn’t always easy for Citroën faced with a rival that was already managing to combine very high levels of performance and reliability on a state-of-the-art car. But the season isn‘t over yet, because winning a thirteen round championship where all the rounds count also requires consistency. We saw that the DS3 WRCs were quicker in Portugal than in Mexico, so that suggests that the team is making progress. It also confirms that the DS3 WRC is more comfortable when there is a high level of grip.”
Q: How have you prepared for Rally Argentina? Do you feel ready to go after an eighth consecutive win?
SL: “Apart from one day of testing, I haven’t driven on gravel since the 2012 Rally de Espana. So I don’t know what sort of feeling I’ll have on the first few stages in Argentina. I think that you can lose your rhythm pretty quickly, and that’s why I’m cautious about my chances. There's no denying the fact that I have pretty much moved on from rallying and am now focused on the future. This reduced programme is a good way to continue to compete for Citroën in 2013, but I’m not as well prepared as Mikko, Dani and the other guys. We’ll see what happens when we get our helmets on...”