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The Frenchman will make his debut on the South American event, billed as the sport’s toughest challenge, driving a Peugeot 2008DKR as part of a four-car squad. Joining him and 2010 Dakar winner Sainz will be 11-time Dakar winner Stéphane Peterhansel and five-time bike winner Cyril Despres.
Loeb, 41, tested Peugeot’s Dakar challenger in Morocco earlier this year and will get his first taste of competition alongside Sainz at next month’s Rallye du Maroc (October 3-9) before facing the Dakar over 13 days in Argentina and Bolivia in 2016.
“When I tried the Peugeot 2008DKR out in June, it was immediately very impressive for me – and of course it has changed a lot since then,” said Loeb.
“What struck me most of all is how the Dakar car was a completely new experience: in the WRC I have been used to going round obstacles but with this car you can just drive straight over them, and it takes some time to have the confidence to believe it!
“I’ve also been used to having very detailed pace notes: in Cross Country, you have to find the road for yourself and improvise your route. And this is actually the first time I have driven any type of diesel car in competition too. So there is a lot for me to learn, but I am eager to find out more.
“Dakar is something that appeals to me; it is a huge adventure. The rally in Morocco will give me a very interesting idea of what Cross Country is all about, so this is a fantastic opportunity for me to learn; particularly alongside such successful team mates,” he added.
Partnering Loeb in his Cross Country challenge will be his long time co-driver, Daniel Elena. Like Loeb, 42-year-old Elena has never competed in Cross Country before and he has undergone intensive training to prepare him for the challenge.
Loeb was previously team mates with two-time WRC champion Sainz for his first full season in the World Rally Championship in 2003, until the Spaniard ended his WRC career at the end of 2004.
Sainz said: “There is nothing more I can say about Sébastien that his career hasn’t said already. Of course rally raid will be a new adventure for him, but he has every capacity to adapt to it with no problem. As I have seen for myself in the past, he is a quick learner in everything he does."