Sébastien Loeb has selected Fabian Lurquin as his navigator for next year’s Dakar Rally, following his high-profile split with long-term co-driver Daniel Elena in March.
The experienced Belgian was one of two co-drivers to have tested with Loeb in Dubai recently, with the nine-time World Rally Champion quoted as being “close to a final decision” by French publication L’Équipe.
Loeb is said to have given Lurquin, who has partnered Mathieu Serradori in an SRT Racing-run Century TR6 since 2018, and Dakar biker Xavier de Soultrait a try-out in a private test in Dubai a fortnight ago, with the final decision landing on Lurquin.
Loeb explained that Lurquin’s experience in rally raids and approach to the discipline was what ultimately made up his mind in the end.
Après plusieurs semaines d’échanges et de tests avec des copilotes spécialistes et expérimentés du #RallyeRaid, mon choix s’est finalement porté sur Fabian Lurquin. #DakarRally #BRX pic.twitter.com/AbvJ8tTusm
— Sébastien Loeb (@SebastienLoeb) May 19, 2021
“After several weeks of exchanges and tests with specialist and experienced rally raid co-drivers, my choice is finally to go with Fabian Lurquin,” Loeb said in a post on social media.
“His approach to the race and his experience of the terrain convinced me. The unveiling of the 2022 Dakar route last week, where navigation will play an even bigger role definitely influenced my decision.
“We will now start working together with Fabian and put together a program of preparation to enable us to get to know each other better and be ready for the start of this famous event.”
Before partnering with Serradori, with whom he won a Dakar stage in 2020 and showed strong pace during this year’s edition, Lurquin competed on the classic rally raid with Erik Wevers for the Riwald Dakar Team and also has some stage rallying experience, most notably with Khalid Kabbage and Guy Lauwvers.
This will be Loeb’s first full-time change of co-driver since his pre-WRC days, having brought to an end a 23-year partnership with Elena this year.
That announcement came as a result of a difficult return to the Dakar, following a year away, with mechanical problems, punctures and navigation issues playing a part on the pairing’s first outing with the Prodrive-run Bahrain Raid Xtreme team.