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According to a report in the French newspaper Le Figaro last week, two senior motorsport officials have criticised reigning world rally champion Sebastien Loeb for being "too scruffy". 

Surinder Thatthi, chairman of the Confederation of African Countries in Motorsports (CACMS), and Morrie Chandler, president of the World Rally Championship (WRC) commission, both criticised Loeb for his appearance, the newspaper said.

The pair, both members of the International Automobile Federation (FIA), apparently made their points known in an email exchange in March. It is believed that Chandler suggested that the official WRC television footage not film the Frenchman close up.

"I watched the WRC Mexico highlights last night and I have to voice my opinion on the poor appearance of Sebastien Loeb on WRC-TV", Thatthi wrote in his email to Chandler, a copy of which was made available to Reuters.

"He was unshaven, scruffy looking and with unkempt hair!!," Thatthi added. "It is wrong.....when the FIA gives him global TV coverage to millions of viewers and to many children worldwide he is a hero and role model.

"I know there is a level of personal freedom one is allowed but I feel he is taking this too far and someone should talk to him or his team about this," Thatthi added.

Chandler replied with the comments, "Yes I watched the same as you did. Unfortunately it is not a problem that is unique to our sport as the same happens in football and other "male" sports."

"Of course these persons are an insult to real males", he added. "My only solution is that we suggest to (rallying rights holders) ISC that the camera does not cover them close up."

Chandler copied his reply to ISC managing director Simon Long, whose opinion was quite different.

"I do feel that it is precisely Sebastien's "ruggedly good-looking" appearance which has helped endear him to so many new and young fans both in France and around the world", Long wrote back to Chandler.

A spokesman for the FIA was not available to comment.

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