Monday | 14 Dec 2015

Stories of 2015: Loeb's return

What were the big stories of the WRC season? Throughout this week’s editorial team reflects on some of the year’s major talking points. Then, when we’ve done with our favourites, we’ll give you the opportunity to have your say in our poll.

There was huge excitement surrounding Sébastien Loeb’s WRC return at January’s Rallye Monte-Carlo. It was 15 months since the nine-time champion’s previous appearance and it renewed rivalries with his successor on top of the championship podium, Sébastien Ogier.

To say the pair had a terse relationship as Citroën team-mates is putting it mildly, and the WRC could not wait to see if Loeb still had what it took to match Ogier, a man beginning his quest for a third straight world title.

The anticipation rose to fever pitch as Loeb went fastest in Wednesday’s shakedown, but the real verdict would have to wait 24 hours until the opening stage on the ice-covered road from Entrevaux - Rouaine in the Alps.

The WRC held its breath as the duo blasted into the 21.31km test – and gasped in amazement as they emerged after 16 minutes of treacherous conditions in darkness.

Sébastien Loeb - sensational WRC return

Road opener Ogier emerged with a time of 16min 24.4sec. Twenty-six minutes later Loeb broke the timing beam 30.9sec quicker than his fellow countryman. Nobody was within 22.0sec of Loeb.

With mid-stage split times now banned, Loeb was unaware of his pace until the finish. His face was a picture of astonishment as the times were relayed.

“I said to Daniel (Elena, Loeb’s co-driver) three kilometres before the end that it felt like we were stopped,” he explained. “The road was full of ice everywhere.”

Loeb had answered the doubters – and in some style!

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