Sébastien Loeb admits he made a mistake in stopping to change a puncture when on course for a storybook victory at last weekend’s Rally Guanajuato Mexico.
The 44-year-old Frenchman, driving his first WRC event for more than three years, was leading Dani Sordo when he hit a stone in Saturday afternoon’s second pass of the 30.97km Guanajuatito speed test.
The impact punctured the front left tyre on Loeb’s Citroën C3. He and co-driver Daniel Elena replaced the wheel and dropped almost 2min 30sec, plunging to fifth.
Sordo also punctured in the same stage but drove to the finish. He conceded just 30sec and went on to finish second.
Loeb acknowledged his lack of recent WRC competition meant he underestimated the strength of Michelin’s current tyres.
Asked if he made an error in stopping, he told wrc.com: “Yes. As old as I am, I take some experience. It was a bit stupid, but I think we didn’t speak enough before about that and I took a bad decision.
“Now we have an alarm (in the car) for punctures. I saw the alarm and like in Dakar, alarm, puncture, we stop, we change. But it was a bad decision, I could have lost much less.”
Loeb was happy to prove he still had the pace to match the newer generation of drivers.
“I had a lot of fun in the car, it was very nice to drive this new World Rally Car with more power and more downforce.
“I had to adapt a bit my driving to this but it came quite quickly and the rhythm was good so I enjoyed fighting for the lead. It was a bit frustrating to stop the fight because of the puncture but it was still a good weekend,” he said.
His second outing in a three-rally programme is next month’s asphalt Corsica Linea - Tour de Corse (5 - 8 April), with the mixed surface RallyRACC Catalunya - Rally de España completing the schedule.