Testing times for Loeb
Sébastien Loeb faces a race against time to familiarise himself with Hyundai Motorsport's i20 WRC ahead of his debut with the squad at Rallye Monte-Carlo (24-27 January).
The nine-time world champion will kick off his six-event programme with the Korean manufacturer in the French Alps later this month and recently visited the team's Alzenau headquarters to undergo a seat fitting.
However, the Frenchman's participation in the upcoming Dakar Rally (6-17 January) means he and co-driver Daniel Elena will only have a limited time to test the i20 before they take their new car into battle on the Monte asphalt.
"We have a very short window of opportunity to test the i20 Coupe WRC before Rallye Monte-Carlo," he admitted. "I am back from Dakar only on the 18th [of January], and the recce for Monte is scheduled for the 21st.
"I am hopeful that we will be as well prepared as we can be for the opening WRC round of the season, even with the short time.”
Recognising he only has two days to get to grips with the i20, Loeb used his visit to Hyundai's base in Germany to complete vital preparations that he believes will help to "maximise our already limited test time before Monte".
Without the luxury of an extensive pre-season familiarisation programme, Loeb is realistic about his chances of success in Monte-Carlo, an event he has won seven times during his glittering career.
He said: “Of course, I hope that we can fight for wins but at the same time I know it will be a difficult challenge to come back into WRC with a new car and a new team.
"I did three rallies last year [with Citroën] and won one of them. I hope I will get quickly used to the i20 Coupe WRC and be able to show competitive pace – and perhaps even be in the hunt for first place.”
Hyundai's Rallye Monte-Carlo line-up will also include Thierry Neuville and Andreas Mikkelsen.
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