Loeb cautious over ninth win

Sébastien Loeb is not counting on a remarkable ninth straight Spanish win when he returns to the WRC this week for the last of his three-rally 2018 programme.

The nine-time world champion was unbeatable on Spain’s roads in his heyday, winning eight times in a row between 2005 and 2012, after which he retired from full-time WRC action.

Loeb returns to the mixed surface RallyRACC Catalunya - Rally de España (25 - 28 October) for the first time since 2012 in a Citroën C3 WRC, but makes no promises he will match the speed of title-chasing trio Thierry Neuville, Sébastien Ogier and Ott Tänak.

“The standard is so high that it would be pretentious to say that I’ll be able to challenge the three title contenders, but I hope to be more or less on the pace,” he said.

The 44-year-old Frenchman’s speed was never in question during his two early-season outings in Mexico and Corsica.

He raised hopes of a fairytale victory at his first gravel WRC outing for almost five years when he led in Mexico before a puncture wrecked his dream. He finished fifth.

Loeb is chasing a ninth straight win in Spain

An early accident ended his Corsica challenge but he returned under Rally 2 to win three stages and send a clear message that the magic remained.

Loeb is praying for a troublefree run to make the most of a lowly position in Friday’s start order, which could offer better grip than those ahead and allow him to capitalise further on the final two days of sealed surface roads.

“After setting some good times on both surfaces in Mexico and in Corsica, I’d love to get through an entire rally without making any mistakes. My two days of testing went well. It's now up to me to put it all together, from start to finish.

“If it’s dry on day one, then we'll need to make the most of the potential advantage of our road position, because lots of things always happen on this leg, with hidden, embedded rocks pretty much everywhere,” he added.

The omens are good for Loeb. His C3 is the one in which Kris Meeke won the rally 12 months ago.

Head to WRC+ to watch All Live from RallyRACC Catalunya - Rally de España, including every stage broadcast live, breaking service park news and expert studio analysis.

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