Interview: Sebastien Loeb
- 30th October 2006, 2:56pm
It was 5:30 in the morning in France when Sébastien Loeb became FIA World Rally Champion for the third consecutive time. Here he chats about what it means to him, and when he's likely to return to the driver's seat.
You chose not to follow the first leg of Rally Australia live during the night from Thursday to Friday.
“I had followed the Rally of Turkey from the start and the performance of Marcus Grönholm there had put me down a bit to begin with. To see him flying like that and being at home without having a chance to do anything about it was tough. It wasn’t a great feeling. I didn’t want to repeat that.”
What did you think when you turned your mobile phone on, on Friday morning?
“The information text messages and the stage by stage classification messages had piled up into my phone and I saw them all at the same time. By the time I read all of them, the only thing I could remember was that Marcus now had a ten-minute gap to the leader. Of course, it put me in a good mood. I called Marc [Van Dalen, Kronos team principal] who explained to me what had been going on.”
Did you worry that some more retirements would take place and ease your rival’s recovery?
“It was a possibility: the start of the event showed that anything could happen. But the most difficult stages were behind us. I hoped that the ‘survivors’ would continue their careful progress. Ten minutes was a big gap for Marcus to catch up and finish on the podium as he needed to. After the final stage finish, I sent Marcus a friendly text message to thank him for the competition. He answered that it was just fair and that I deserved this title. He also warned me about next year!!!!”
How do you feel now that your target has been achieved?
“Just now, it’s hard to realise. It’s a bit too early in France. Given the way it happened and also because I was angry with myself after my accident and the fact that it stopped me competing, I felt relieved. I don’t think many people thought it was possible to clinch this title with a private team, even if it is supported by Citroën Sport. I am very happy for Kronos and our partners, especially BFGoodrich. Thanks to their faultless work, we were able to build up a valuable advantage on the first 12 rounds which helped us to reach the target.”
Now, you can concentrate on your recovery with no worries.
“It’s true that it will be much easier without the obsession of coming back quickly. But it doesn’t mean that I will go easier on myself as regards my rehabilitation. I have a lot of work to do. The X-rays we’ve just had have proved that the calcification is going well. I will have some checks in two weeks’ time. I realise that a lot of time is needed. A fracture at this level is rather complicated. On top of the bone-knitting, I need to work on my range of movement and the strength of my arm. Some days, I have the feeling that nothing happens but I’ve understood that progress comes step by step.”
When do you think you will go back to competition?
“Now I can drive my road car on normal roads. But as far as getting back behind the wheel of a WRC car goes, I am unable to give you a date yet, and neither are the people looking after me. The minimum I can hope for is to take part in the New Zealand rally recce, as the route has changed a lot. So even if I don’t compete on the event this year, I won’t have to discover it completely next year. For the rest I need to be patient. It gives me some time to savour my third title.”
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