Schumacher's off (again) but Loeb's still winning and quits frontline WRC on a high with another title
In winning a ninth consecutive World Rally Championship title, Sebastien Loeb proved very little indeed. We already knew he was the most successful driver of all time; a ninth crown simply makes the likelihood of his records ever tumbling all the more remote.
Novelty still hasn't worn off
We have to look beyond rallying before we find any significance in his ninth title. Valentino Rossi currently boasts nine championships to his credit; if we include Loeb’s Junior World Rally Championship crown from 2001 (which is fair given that two of Rossi’s titles were achieved in feeder categories) the diminutive Frenchman can be adjudged to be motorsport’s most successful competitor.
Loeb won his home round of the WRC – Rallye de France – in typically assured fashion. Although the winning margin over Ford’s Jari-Matti Latvala was only 15.5 seconds, one does feel that Loeb managed the advantage and pushed only as hard as was necessary. Citroen team-mate Mikko Hirvonen finished in third position to help his team claim its eighth constructors’ title, while the familiarly impressive Thierry Neuville finished in fourth.
Can anybody catch Loeb? Seems not
Much more significant than this being Loeb’s ninth title is that it’ll almost certainly be his last. The 38-year-old – who bleeds hydropneumatic suspension fluid if you cut him – announced a few days before the rally that he’ll only contest a part campaign next season. “I have to admit that I am a little tired of the schedule imposed by the World Rally Championship,” he said, ruling out a 2013 title bid. “I still love driving and winning. I'll still be around in 2013, but not as consistently as now, competing at rallies that I like and which are important for Citroen. I couldn’t not include Rallye Monte Carlo in my diary.”
Loeb will instead focus his energies on a World Touring Car Championship campaign – still with Citroen – and we eagerly await further details of what promises to be an intriguing switch of discipline.
I remember the way he 'won' the monte in his debut season, before being DQ'd on a technicality. Reminded me of Ayrton at Monaco in '84. Sure fire future stars both of them, and so they more than proved.
More teams and no Loeb should bring a more varied 2013 WRC season.
It will be good to see how Loeb gets on with another dicipline. He's got to be one of the best tarmac rally drivers of his generation.
..of his generation, not one of the best - simply THE BEST. (with apologies to Tina Turner). Just look at the number of wins in Spain, Germany, France and the Monte compared to the rest for the last 10 years. 29 / 39 rallies 2002-2012 (to date) Do the stats from 2004 and he is even more dominant.
Just a truly amazing driver.I think the outstanding thing being apart from his sublime talent is his loyalty to one Manufacturer. Definately my all time favourite driver,sadly his God like status in Europe has not really reached these shores.
You have to hand it to him; he has absolutely annihilated the previous records set. It should really be 10 titles rather than 9 however the year before his first, Citroen gave Loeb strict orders not to push too hard to ensure they won the manufacturers championship then once they realised they had been too cautious Loeb was too far away from Solberg to get the championship back IIRC. Still 9 world championships isn’t too shabby!
It will be great to see how he gets on in different types of motorsport; WTCC, LMP’s etc along with how the WRC will change without him competing for the overall title.
"We have to look beyond rallying before we find any significance in his ninth title. Valentino Rossi currently boasts nine championships to his credit; if we include Loeb’s Junior World Rally Championship crown from 2001 (which is fair given that two of Rossi’s titles were achieved in feeder categories) the diminutive Frenchman can be adjudged to be motorsport’s most successful competitor."
What about Dougie Lampkin - 12 times World trials champion? Not as high profile maybe, but no less a feat of dedication, commitment, and shear talent.
The end of an era. A quite staggering record – as is his consistency. Simply remarkable. I don’t think he gets the recognition he deserves. Sadly, Autosport & Motorsport aren’t leading with his 9th Title – I’m sorry, but winning a 9th WRC overshadows a Vettel GP win. I really hope he gives WTCC a miss – a second division world series – and does more LMP/GT racing. His 2ns place at Le Mans is an indication of what he could do.