Pho­tos: Ore­gon Trails Rally/ Robert Ma­hony, Red Bull GROUP RAL­LY­ING ED­I­TOR

Motor Sport News - - Rally News -

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

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