Sebastien Loeb secured his 100th podium finish in the World Rally Championship when he finished in second place on the 2011 Acropolis Rally in Greece last weekend.

A master on gravel, tarmac, ice and snow, Loeb is clearly the best driver in the WRC, and his record of seven world titles and 65 wins at the top level will surely never be broken.

But does that make Loeb the greatest rally driver ever?

Many will say that undoubtedly he is, that a man who is so consistent, and who rarely crashes, is simply in a league of his own and has no peers.

While I agree with those thoughts in principle, I don’t believe Loeb is the greatest rally driver ever, for the simple reason that he has never driven for a team other than Citroen.

The Frenchman has been blessed to compete in an era when he was with the best team, with the best car, and with the most money to spend.

Make no mistake, this takes nothing away from his achievements, but it does raise a few questions when comparing him against some of the other legends of the sport.

Take Finland’s Juha Kankkunen as an example. He won four World Rally Championship titles, but drove for six different manufacturers over a brilliant career. He won the WRC for Peugeot in the wild Group B era, then took two titles for Lancia, and another for Toyota. He also had factory drives at Ford, Subaru and Hyundai.

Carlos Sainz won his two titles driving for Toyota, but he won regularly for Subaru and Ford, before finishing his WRC career at Citroen.

Mitsubishi man, Tommi Makinen, won his four championships driving Lancers, but he also won rallies in Subarus and Fords, and drove for Nissan early in his career.

Then there are the ‘win or crash’ drivers such as Ari Vatanen and Colin McRae. Vatanen won the 1991 title in a Ford, but was also a rally winner in Opels and Peugeots, and was a star at Subaru and Mitsubishi. McRae, on other hand, started his career at Subaru, winning the 1995 WRC, before driving for Ford and Citroen.

Some years ago, separate surveys on who was the best rally driver of all time awarded the victory to Bjorn Waldegard in one, and Walter Rohrl in the other.

Waldegard was a Ford star and then became the marathon master at Toyota, winning the Safari Rally on many occasions, while Rohrl is a two-time winner of the WRC (Fiat and Lancia) and was perhaps the only driver who truly mastered the frightening Audi Quattro S1.

As you can see, Loeb has a lot of competition. Like comparing football teams of different eras, comparing rally drivers of different eras is just as difficult. So much has changed over the years.

The cars are faster and more developed nowadays, while the 70s and 80s saw events that went for days on end, usually all through the night.

There is no question that Sebastien Loeb is a superstar of the sport and will most likely go down in the history books as the most successful driver that rallying has ever seen.

However, while feasible, claiming that Loeb is the greatest rally driver of all time is, in my opinion, drawing a long bow.

Read the RallySport Mag fans' views on Sebastien Loeb.

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