Wed 31 Aug 2022

A chance encounter: How a sauna with Loeb got Serderidis into WRC

WRC privateer Jourdan Serderidis has revealed how a chance meeting with Sébastien Loeb whet his appetite for a future in rallying.

There’s no set route into this sport. While many competitors catch the rallying bug from family or friends, others - like Sébastien Ogier - come from no motorsport background whatsoever.  

That was the case for Jourdan Serderidis. Contesting his first rally 10 years ago at the age of 48, the Greek driver was certainly a late bloomer. 

But, of all the things which could have lured Serderidis into rallying, his passion for the sport developed after sharing a sauna with nine-time world champion Sébastien Loeb. Yes - a sauna with Loeb - you read that right. 

“I didn’t know anything about rallying before 2012,” he told WRC.com. “It was January, and with my company and the management board we organised a team-building trip to go drifting on an ice lake in Sweden.

“In the evening when we came back to the hotel, there was a Citroën truck parked outside and somebody said, ‘oh - it’s about the WRC rally!’ I was in the sauna later on and all of a sudden, Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena came in and sat right next to us. 

“After a while, my girlfriend went out from the sauna on her own. Loeb looked at her and then looked at us and said, ‘guys what are you doing here? Go with your girlfriend!’. We were all laughing and chatting together and the next day, I said that I would like to do rally. 

“I found myself a coach - a Swedish coach,” he continued. “I went back once or twice to do some practice [on the ice lake], and after a while I asked him: ‘Do you think it’s possible that I do a real rally?’. He just said, ‘yeah, yeah, you can do a real rally’.

“I started at a very low level in Belgium with a Honda Civic and I was very, very slow. I didn’t know anything about the pace notes, but step-by-step I grew up and now here I am.”

And here he is. Now with 27 WRC starts to his name - 11 of which have been in top-tier machinery. Part of the beauty of rallying is that, regardless of ability, anybody can compete in the WRC. 

Serderidis, first and foremost, is a very successful businessman who competes for love and enjoyment - not for trophies. He campaigned a Citroën DS3 WRC on six events in 2017 before sampling a Ford Fiesta WRC on two rallies in 2018. 

At this year’s Safari Rally Kenya, he became the first privateer driver to score points in the WRC’s hybrid era - ticking off a childhood dream while bringing one of M-Sport Ford’s Pumas home in a very respectable seventh overall.

Coming from Greek origins and of Greek nationality, Serderidis actually grew up in Belgium, but he classes next week’s EKO Acropolis Rally Greece as his home WRC round. The rough and rocky gravel terrain, he admits, is more to his liking.

“My father is Greek and my mother is Belgian,” explained the 58-year-old. “I grew up in Belgium and went to university there. 

“I started an IT company in 2003 and now it has grown to be quite big, with 2,500 people. It’s based in Luxembourg and we have offices in Belgium, France, Portugal, Greece and also in Jordan. 

“That’s it - I come back to Greece sometimes to see my family there, but I am spending more time in Luxembourg than any other country at the moment.

“I did Ypres [Rally Belgium] two or three times, but it’s not really my style. I’m coming from the south of Belgium and there, the roads are more natural and I prefer that kind of rally on asphalt.

“But the Acropolis is my style - it’s in the mountains and it’s normally dry. Okay, last year it was not dry - but if it is, then I am more comfortable and I can, let’s say, close a little bit the gap to some of the big guys.”

The best part of it all? Although he’s not scoring points for the British squad, M-Sport will prepare and run Serderidis’ Puma next week. That technically makes him a team-mate to Loeb, who sparked his interest on day one.

“I don’t think Séb remembers 2012,” laughed Serderidis. “It’s just incredible to be in the same team as him. Séb is completely open with me and any advice I ask from him, he gives me immediately. 

“[Loeb] is an incredibly hard-working guy and you really see the professionalism. I am a privateer driver and certainly not a professional, but when you see how much he is preparing for every rally then it’s no surprise he is so successful.”

M-Sport Ford will field five cars in Lamia next week, with Loeb and Serderidis joined by Craig Breen, Gus Greensmith and Pierre-Louis Loubet. Adrien Fourmaux was also due to drive a Puma but withdrew following his accident in Belgium.

  • Full coverage from EKO Acropolis Rally Greece will be available on WRC+ All Live here, including every stage broadcast as it happens as well as key interviews, features and expert analysis from the service park.
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