After an unprecedented nine consecutive world titles, Loeb’s departure marks the end of an era in the WRC. And to help mark it, we’ve been asking some of his rallying contemporaries for their thoughts on the Loeb phenomenon.
In the first of the series, here’s what M-Sport boss Malcolm Wilson, who masterminded Ford’s WRC efforts for much of the Loeb era, had to say:
Q: What makes Sebastien Loeb such a great driver?
MW: “First of all, I think he’s the complete all-rounder. He’s won on every surface possible and has always had the speed. But for me, the most important thing is the way that he’s managed his rallies and, in fact, his whole career. He’s totally unflappable and pressure just doesn’t seem to faze him. Many times he’d set off and Marcus [Gronholm] would take maybe six seconds off him on the first stage, and we’d think ‘yes!’ but by stage three he’d be back level again. He had a special way of playing himself into each rally, as well as consistency and that ability to cope with pressure.”
Q: Where does he rank in the all time great drivers?
MW: “He’s my all time number one. It used to be Walter Rohrl, but then, sadly, his achievement was way surpassed. To win nine consecutive championships is incredible. I wouldn’t say it’ll never happen again, but it’s definitely going to be a hard record to beat.”
Q: Do you have a favourite ‘Loeb’ memory?
MW: “I feel privileged that I’ve been here to see all of his nine championship wins. And sad too, because he’s probably cost me seven out of the nine… The memories for me are the fantastic battles that he and Marcus had, especially on Rally New Zealand [in 2007] when Marcus won by 0.3sec. I have so many fantastic memories of those two guys at the top of their game. I’m really looking forward to seeing him in France, on what I think will be his final WRC rally. I’m hoping we’ll see something memorable there too.“
"I feel privileged that I’ve been here to see all of his nine championship wins."