Loeb rejoins the WRC for home rally
- 1st October 2013, 11:57am
Regardless of the outcome, the 2013 Rallye de France Alsace will go down in world motorsport history. The rally is set to be Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena’s last competitive outing for the works Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT.
With 78 wins already under their belts, the nine-time World Champions will be looking for one final victory at what is undoubtedly one of their favourite events. Always comfortable on the tarmac roads of the Alsace region, Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen and Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio will also want to celebrate their team-mates’ final outing with a good result.
Based in Alsace since 2010, the Rallye de France has seen Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena secure two of their nine world titles. This year, the legendary crew will relinquish their crown here in what will be their final rally in the no.1 DS3 WRC. For this, the fourth outing of his 2013 mini-programme, Sébastien Loeb will bow out from rallying in front of a highly partisan crowd. Several hundred thousand fans are expected to line the roads, and they will all be hoping for the same thing: see the 79th win of the most successful rally driver there has ever been.
“Obviously, my aim is to achieve the best possible result, but you have to bear in mind that I haven’t competed in a rally since the start of May. And even then, it was on gravel in Argentina,” downplayed Seb. “OK, so I haven’t exactly been dossing around the house since then, but I’ll inevitably need some time to adapt and get back into the swing of things. How long it takes me to get up to speed will probably determine the final outcome for us. There’s no pressure on me, no championship to go for and I’ve nothing to prove. Above all, I’m here to enjoy myself, and thank all the people who have supported me for so long. I hope it’ll be a great big party.”
In the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team’s second DS3 WRC, Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen will be looking to extend their run of six podium-finishes on tarmac. “It seems that I have become a real tarmac specialist,” joked the Finnish driver, who was once again struck by misfortune in Australia. “If we want to stay in the fight for the Manufacturers’ title, we have to score heavily with both cars. My aim will therefore be to do at least as well as in Germany. This rally isn’t an easy one, because there are a lot of changes in road surface. And if it rains, it can become even trickier…”
Competing in the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total World Rally Team’s DS3 WRC, Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio will line up at the start determined to build on their win at Rally Deutschland. Particularly sharp at this rally, at which he finished as runner-up in 2010 and 2011, Dani has finally shaken off the repeated questioning about when, or if, he would win his first rally: “I hope that Rally Deutschland was just one stage and I’ll have the opportunity to enjoy that feeing again. I really like this rally. It is an extremely fast course – in fact, this is the rally at which we go quickest all season, with a top speed of over 200kph. Whether it stays dry or it rains, I don’t mind either way. Obviously, the rally will be special because we’ll be alongside Seb and Daniel for the last time. Although the transition has taken place gradually this season, it will still be a special moment for the WRC.”
As regards the itinerary, the 2013 edition of the Rallye de France is not very different to last year, other than it has been shortened by around 20%. Held on roads in the Vosges and run twice during Friday, the Pays d’Ormont stage is once again likely to prove decisive in determining the outcome of the rally.
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