Saturday | 10 Oct 2015

Loeb 'positive' after tough Cross Country debut

Sébastien Loeb gave an upbeat assessment of his Cross Country debut at Rallye du Maroc despite an incident-filled event that had him reaching for a sand shovel more than once.

Loeb drove Peugeot's 2008 DKR15+ on the five-day event as a warm up for next year's Dakar. He was joined by former WRC team-mate Carlos Sainz in a later spec DKR16 car, while familiar rivals Mikko Hirvonen and Nasser Al-Attiyah were part of the MINI ALL4 Racing team.

Accompanied by co-driver Daniel Elena, Loeb got off to a rough start with a turbo problem on Monday and he completed the leg being towed behind a truck. He spent much of Tuesday in dust thrown up by other cars, but worse was to come on Wednesday when he put his car on its side in a hollow for three hours and later rolled.

His car rebuilt overnight, Loeb had a better Thursday, going third fastest on the 293km test along the coast from Zagora to Agadir. But his fortunes took another turn on yesterday's final day after a puncture and more time spent digging his vehicle out of the sand.
 
“This was our first cross-country rally and the result is pretty positive," said Loeb, who finished 44th. "We enjoyed ourselves and, as far as our performance is concerned, we showed that we can be competitive on smoother ground where the emphasis is on the driving.

"Things got more complex for us in the dunes and in the bush where you need to follow a heading. We also had a little trouble locating certain concealed trails, but the week has enabled us to see where our strengths and weaknesses lie. Now we know in which areas we have to work.”

The overall winner was Al-Attiyah in a MINI ALL4 Racing. It was the Qatari's second consecutive Maroc victory and gave him an unassailable lead in 2015 FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup. Hirvonen finished fifth while early leader Sainz retired on Thursday with an engine problem.

Loeb's preparations for the 2016 Dakar will continue next week at a test in Erfoud, Morocco.

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