AUTO - GUMTREE WORLD RX OF SOUTH AFRICA - 2017

RALLYCROSS OF SOUTH AFRICA: SÉBASTIEN LOEB FINISHES AT THE FOOT OF THE CHAMPIONSHIP PODIUM

South Africa is the country of the “Big Five” wild animal species, whose aggressiveness was mirrored in the atmosphere of the twelfth and final event of the World Rallycross Championship held there this weekend. Sébastien Loeb, unfortunately, fell victim to it. Once more, he had managed to qualify for the final races in spite of a puncture in the first lap of the second qualifying heat. The Team Peugeot-Hansen driver took a perfect start from the third line of the grid in his semi-final, to the extent that he was in the fight for the lead as early as the first turn. That, however, is when he was violently hit from behind. A broken exhaust on his 208 WRX and another puncture signed the end of his ambitions for this last event of the Championship, a particularly frustrating situation considering the Alsatian certainly had the speed to add a seventh podium to this year’s scoreboard. Nevertheless, this is his second year in the discipline, and his fourth place in the Championship, close on the heels of three world champions of the specialty, confirms his steady rise to power.

“It is of course disappointing,” admitted the nine-time World Rally Championship winner and rallycross convert, “especially since we had started really well. The track has a strong grip and our 208 was particularly well balanced there. But I couldn’t do much about it, rallycross remains an unpredictable sport. You need success, and I had it when I reached five consecutive podiums, but I was less lucky towards the end of the year. What I’ll remember of this year is that the whole Peugeot-Hansen team worked extremely hard to allow us to progress in 2017, and that’s what we did. We crept up to the level of most of our rivals, and even gained the upper hand on some, and we even managed to shake some fear into Volkswagen on the high-grip tracks of the end of season. All this bodes well for 2018, when we’ll try to do even better by learning from this year, as well as from the Dakar, our other main objective.”

Sébastien Loeb will be having an end-of-year celebratory rally in two weeks, reuniting with Daniel Elena as well as with his Peugeot 306 Maxi for the Rallye du Var (23rd-26th of November). However, his main focus is now Dakar 2018, from the 6th to the 20th of January. The Frenchman, who claimed the second place in last year’s star rally raid, very much intends to drive his fearsome Peugeot 3008 DKR Maxi one step higher on this year’s podium.