WRC legend Sébastien Loeb was an interested visitor to the Dakar Rally earlier this month and his appearance heightened speculation that he could form part of a Peugeot ‘dream team’ for the 2015 event.
The Frenchman, who bowed out of the WRC in emotional scenes at Rally de France last year, spent three days at the grueling 9600km event in Argentina and fulfilled a raft of PR functions for personal sponsor Red Bull.
Loeb arrived in the Salta bivouac as the event reached its midpoint after six days. He remained there for the rest day and the opening stage of the second half of the rally.
Peugeot has made no formal announcement about a Dakar return, but engineering staff are known to have been approached to ascertain their availability for such a project.
Nine-time world champion Loeb admitted he was interested in seeing for himself what Dakar was about and said he would like to tackle the marathon off-road event in the future.
Loeb will drive for Citroen, which like Peugeot is part of French manufacturer PSA, in the World Touring Car Championship in 2014. He would have no competition clashes if his agreement was extended into 2015 as the WTCC season does not usually start until April.
Peugeot has a successful Dakar history having won when it was based in Africa with former WRC champions Ari Vatanen and Juha Kankkunen. Loeb worked with Peugeot last year when he powered a 208 T16 to a new record up the famous Pikes Peak hillclimb in the United States.
Other WRC stars have made their mark on the Dakar Rally. Carlos Sainz won in 2010 and Nasser Al-Attiyah was victorious the following year. Sainz retired from this year’s rally after rolling on a liaison section while Al-Attiyah finished third.
Dakar legend Stéphane Peterhansel, a Dakar winner on 11 occasions in both the car and motorcycle sections, has been mentioned as a possible team-mate to Loeb.
The Frenchman drove a Mini for the X-raid squad this year and although he is due to stay with the team for 2015, he is still being linked with Peugeot. Peterhansel was angry at being told to follow team orders and finish second behind team-mate Nani Roma when he had the speed to outpace the Spaniard.