Corsica master Sébastien Loeb returns to the island’s WRC rally this weekend as a virtual beginner 10 years after dominating the classic mountain road encounter.
The asphalt Corsica linea – Tour de Corse is the second of the Frenchman’s three-event guest appearances for Citroën, with whom he won nine consecutive world titles before quitting the sport on a full-time basis in 2012.
Loeb claimed four straight Corsica victories between 2005 and 2008 before the championship’s French fixture moved to the mainland. It returned three years ago but the 44-year-old has little specific knowledge on which to draw from his glory days here.
“It’s all new for me,” he explained. “I have no previous pace notes at all because all the stages are new for me. The route used to be located around Ajaccio but now it’s a little bit everywhere. I’ve had to restart from zero with everything.”
Loeb created many records during his career but his 2005 Corsica win set a benchmark that may never be broken. He won every speed test and remains the only driver in the series’ 45-year history to achieve such a feat.
He acknowledges the event has changed since his last appearance. Constant twists and turns on narrow and abrasive roads earned Corsica the nickname ‘Rally of 10,000 Corners’.
While precision and focus in the mountains remain essential, the 2018 version also includes faster and wider sections. Loeb said: “Maybe it has changed by half in its characteristics. I think I have to learn but it isn’t so different from what I was doing 10 years ago.”
After thunderstorms on Wednesday, the forecast indicates a dry weekend and Loeb has yet to experience his C3 car in such conditions on sealed surface roads.
“My test was OK and the feeling was good so I didn’t change a lot. I’ve never driven it on asphalt in the dry. Both my test here and in Alsace last year were in the wet, so we’ll see on the first stages on Friday how it feels,” he added.
Loeb led in Mexico last month on his comeback before a puncture dropped him to fifth. So what about his chances of a fifth island win?
“After our performance in Mexico, I hope we’ll be on the pace again, especially as I’ve always been comfortable on asphalt, not least in Corsica. It’s a place and an event I’ve I have always enjoyed, even if it’s not the easiest rally,” he said.
Pictures: Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool