Prodrive has taken the view that a limited World Rally Championship programme for Sebastien Loeb, giving him more competitive time behind the wheel, will help towards his goal of winning the Dakar rally and the recently announced FIA World Rally-Raid Championship.
Loeb, who is exclusively contracted to Prodrive to drive in both the company’s Dakar programme for Bahrain Raid Xtreme and the X44 Extreme E team it runs on behalf of Lewis Hamilton, has been released to take part in a limited number of WRC rounds, starting with Monte Carlo in January.
“We agreed with Seb that he would benefit from a few more competitive drives in the WRC and that this will ultimately help his Dakar and Extreme E campaigns,” said David Richards, Prodrive chairman. “We have a busy schedule planned for next year with the BRX and X44 Teams, but if he can accommodate a few rounds of the WRC around our programme, then it is good for all of us.”
Sebastien Loeb said: “It is my absolute goal to win the Dakar. It is the ultimate test of speed and endurance in rallying over 14 days and 8,500km. However, it is also tricky and everything needs to come together, the driving and the navigation. We have a strong and fast car and I think we can genuinely start to think about the possibility of winning.”
David Richards added: “Seb is an amazing talent who has lost none of that competitive spirit and must be one of the favourites to win Dakar in January. He has shown in Extreme E that he still has the raw pace, frequently setting the fastest times and I have no doubt he has the potential to be fighting for wins in the WRC next year. It will be great for everyone who loves motorsport to see the most successful rally driver of all time back on the WRC stage.”
Loeb has just competed with the X44 team at the final round of the Extreme E series, the Jurassic XPrix in Dorset, where he and his driving partner, Cristina Gutierrez, secured their first win of the year and finished second in the championship. This was despite finishing on equal points with the winners Rosberg X Racing, as they had won more races. Loeb will soon travel to Saudi Arabia for the Dakar with the BRX team, which starts on January 1.