Five-time WRC World Champion Sébastien Loeb started the new season with two victories – in Wales and Norway. In the following interview Sébastien talks about his love for snow, the advantages of a shorter racing season and the chances of a 50th WRC victory.
Congratulations on your victory at the Rally Norway! Even for you, winning rallies on snow isn’t such an every-day event. Can you describe the rally from your perspective?
Norway was just great! Certainly one of the best events we’ve ever competed in, especially because we fought very closely with Mikko until the final stage. The conditions were simply perfect as well, which made it a real winter rally. It’s only the second time we’ve won on snow, so you’re right, it’s not a day-to-day business! I enjoyed it very much, that’s for sure!
Rally Norway was one of the last unconquered territories on your map of successes. Does the victory have a different value – especially seeing the Scandinavians are almost unbeatable on snow, or is it a victory like the other 48?
Yes, it has special value to me because it was a great battle all the way and I feel that I deserved to win. That wasn’t so much the case when we won in Sweden in 2004, as it came about because our main rivals retired. Of course, this is something we all remember; it was the first time a non-Scandinavian driver beat the locals on their home turf.
In 2009 the WRC season was cut by 12 races for financial reasons. Is the FIA doing the right thing here?
It’s not really up to me to comment on those decisions. It’s the right thing for budget reasons, for sure, and I think it’s not so bad for us from a personal point of view, as we get to spend more time at home with our families.
Since Subaru and Suzuki left the series, in 2009 there are only two real factory teams represented in the WRC. What effects does this have on the way the season will unfold in conjunction with it being the shortest season since 1996?
I don’t think the situation differs a lot from last year because there was the battle between us and Ford in 2008, and it’s the same this season. It’s a pity that some other manufacturers have decided to withdraw from the championship, but it’s their decision and we can hardly comment on that. We only notice that the teams who aren’t here anymore weren’t the most competitive, either.
Next up is the Cyprus Rally, which is part of the WRC for the first time since 2006. You won the last three rallies on Cyprus (2004-2006). What are the chances of celebrating your 50th WRC victory there?
Hopefully good. We always aim to win at the start of an event. So we’ll see!
Which drivers do you see as being your biggest rivals for the victory on Cyprus?
Dani, my team-mate; Mikko for sure, and Jari-Matti, if he can manage to be a bit more consistent.
The Red Bull Rally team has a new car as well as a new driver. With his win in Norway, Patrick Sandell celebrated a good debut. What tips can you give your ‘Red Bull team-mate’?
To continue exactly the same way, of course!