LOEB CONFIRMS A DAKAR RETURN
Photos: Oregon Trails Rally/ Robert Mahony, Red Bull GROUP RALLYING EDITOR
Inspired by his Rally of Spain victory, Sebastien Loeb has decided to take another shot at a maiden Dakar win next year.
Earlier this year, following Peugeot’s withdrawal from its Dakar programme, Loeb told Motorsport News he couldn’t imagine himself returning to the South American marathon. Now, however, fresh from a 79th World Rally Championship win, he’s back and chasing victory in Peru in a privately-run PH Sport Peugeot 3008 DKR.
In his efforts to become the first non-factory driver to win Dakar since Jean-louis Schlesser in 2000, Loeb will face the full force of X-raid’s Mini-based squad – a team which includes three of his former Peugeot colleagues, Carlos Sainz, Stephane Peterhansel and Cyril Despres.
“Throughout my career I’ve always been considered to be a favourite,” said Loeb. “While I’m obviously motivated by winning, having fun is important too, so taking part in the 2019 Dakar with Daniel [Elena, co-driver], as private outsiders, is a fantastic challenge. I’m ready to give it a go: a little bit like my three WRC appearances this year, where success was far from being guaranteed.”
A regulation change for the January 6-17 event means Loeb won’t be able to drive the latest wider-track DKR Maxi he used this season. Instead, he will drive the 2017-spec car he used to finish second on last year’s Dakar. Because of his late decision to commit to the event, he has missed the traditional warm-up rallies and will complete his own private test next month. Much of that time will be focused on getting the best out of himself, Elena and the car in the dunes. More than 70 per cent of January’s route runs through the Peruvian dunes.
“I only made the decision to go to Dakar again at the last minute, but I’m still hungry for the win,” said Loeb. “We’re probably lacking some preparation but I didn’t forget everything I learned over the last three years. It’s going to be an adventure.”
Loeb will tackle Dakar