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GP Week : Issue 2
35 WRC INSIGHT >> Changing the record MARTIN HOLMES talks to a driver who has come to define his generation, and re-write the history books along the way – Sebastien Loeb. F RENCH Citroen driver Sebastien Loeb celebrated his 100th start in world championship rallying in Sweden in February 2008, having achieved an impressive accolade of results en route. Up to Sweden, he had gained a record 37 victories, and unprecedented statistics of 37% wins-to-starts and 61% podiums-to-starts. He is one of only three drivers to have won the World Drivers title four times, as well as being the winner on the FIA’s inaugural Super 1600 series. He is the only driver to have won Monte Carlo five times and Germany six times. He is also so young for stardom in the sport, being just 18 days short of his 34th birthday when he took the start in Sweden. Happy with his career, Sebastien refutes the popular assumption that motor sportsmen would only be happy in Formula One. “I have driven a Formula One car but I much prefer the sensation and the feeling you get in rallying,” he says. “Rallying is much more diverse, different things happen all the time, a different style of driving – gravel, tarmac, winter. In rallying you have to improvise a lot in your driving style. In circuit racing you have to drive in a repetitive way. I get much more pleasure driving in rallies!” What makes a successful rally driver? Guy Frequelin, Loeb’s team boss at Citroen Sport, attributes a combination of four factors: driver, car, team and tyres. Loeb feels there is always one deciding factor, however … “Last year my closest rival Marcus Gronholm and I each had a good team, good cars and the same tyres, so finally I think it was the driver who made the difference! "I like it that way. This year with the single tyre supplier deciding which tyres we use we cannot make errors with tyre choices. All that further narrows the variables. It is all down to the driver in the end.” Team drivers work with many different people. Who has had the most important role in Loeb’s success? “For sure, there is no one person who is more important than anyone else,” he says. “What matters is the way that everybody works together, that everybody does their continued on page 34