2019 Talking Points: Loeb is back!
Sébastien Loeb’s return to the WRC stages in 2019 is a hugely exciting prospect. But will his fresh start with Hyundai Motorsport bring the nine-time champion even more success?
Loeb’s decision to join the Korean manufacturer for six events - his most significant programme since he departed the WRC as a full-time driver at the end of 2012 - is intriguing.
Each and every one of the Frenchman’s 79 victories and nine titles were earned during his time with the all-conquering Citroën squad.
But with another hugely successful Sébastien, Ogier in this case, joining the French team this year, the chances of Loeb filling a third C3 WRC seat were extremely slim. Remember, the pair were less than good friends as team-mates back in 2011.
So, Hyundai stepped in to secure the services of the most successful man in the history of the series. It’s a shrewd move for a team that’s desperate to win the manufacturers’ crown after five failed attempts and it’s great news for the legions of WRC fans across the world that will get to see the ‘old master’ in action again.
It also means six more head-to-head clashes with arch rival Ogier, all of which have the potential to go nuclear. Make no mistake, regardless of the polite handshakes the pair will share before each event, once the helmets are on these are two utterly ruthless competitors.
But to edge the current champ, Loeb has his work cut out. He’s stepped into a completely new team, he’ll be driving a WRC car that isn’t a Citroën for the first time in his career and he’ll be working under a new team principal in Andrea Adamo.
Oh, and it’s also worth mentioning he’ll only have two days to test the i20 before Rallye Monte-Carlo (24-27 January) starts because of his Dakar Rally commitments.
It’s going to be fascinating to see how Loeb performs out of the box. Will the 44-year-old still be able to sprinkle the WRC stages with his legendary magic or will the Monte expose the extent of the challenge he faces? We’ll find out very soon.
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