A Sébastien Loeb retirement is about as rare as a winning lottery ticket, a Sébastien Ogier retirement equally so.
But for both these two great World Rally champions to retire on the same day – imagine the odds you’d get for that?
However that’s exactly what happened on Friday at Rally Portugal as both made their return to the World Rally Championship during their partial 2022 campaigns; quite the contrast from their pulsating battle for victory last time out in the hills above Monaco.
Loeb was leading the way for M-Sport but understeered into a wall and clattered the rear-right of his Puma beyond repair. Ogier picked up a puncture a stage later, losing his grip on third place, before another flat – and just one spare in the trunk of his Toyota – on the following test put him out for the day.
A collectors’ item in WRC folklore it may be, but it’s no one-off. Loeb and Ogier have both retired on the same day before in the WRC, but you have to rewind the clock some 11 years to find the last occasion.
It was Rally Australia, 2011.
Tensions were high between the two Sébastiens as they headed down under. Competing as team-mates at Citroën, Australia fell in the wake of their infamous spat at Rally Germany where Ogier refused to obey team orders to stick behind Loeb but won the rally when Loeb punctured
Cue those famous words: “I think today the good thing is there is justice in this sport”.
Loeb’s response? “I think he is talking too much.”
Loeb and Ogier weren’t exactly the buddies they are today then. Despite both of their best efforts to play the rift in front of the media, the tense atmosphere within the Citroën camp was obvious.
Both were still very much in contention for the world title too with four rounds (including Australia remaining) as Loeb led the way on 192 points and Ogier’s win had vaulted him past Ford’s Mikko Hirvonen and into second, 25 points down on Loeb.
And lo and behold, the two works DS3 WRCs could barely be separated after the two Coffs superspecial stages – Ogier holding just a 0.6-second overnight lead as they each took a stage win.
The tables turned out in the forests on Friday morning as Loeb made his mark, beating Ogier by 2.6s to move into a two-second rally lead.
But it would all go horribly wrong on SS4. Approaching a narrow right-hander with way too much speed, Loeb clipped a bank and tipped his DS3 WRC into a violent roll.
“I just entered a bit too fast and I did a mistake,” said a bemused Loeb. “I saw a split time on the dash, I wasn’t concentrating, didn’t brake enough for the corner and I was too fast.”
A rare lapse from the then seven-time champion that handed Ogier a lifeline. He was only third fastest on the stage but Loeb’s exit gave him a 10.4s advantage over Hirvonen.
“We have to stay concentrated,” said Ogier at service. “Yeah it’s an opportunity but everything is to do.”
He wasn’t wrong. And Ogier failed to heed his own advice.
On the very next stage after service, he blew his golden ticket – smacking a tree and doing severe damage to the front of his Citroën.
“As you can see I hit something with the front of my car and I destroyed the radiator, so it was impossible to continue,” a regretful Ogier said.
“We tried to continue but then we had to stop as the temperature was high and we didn’t want to damage the engine.”
Can you imagine what the atmosphere was like in the Citroën camp that night? Oh to be a fly on the wall.
Come the end of the rally Loeb made it back to 10th overall (with a powerstage win) while Ogier was just 16.5s adrift in 11th.
Their errors back then were far more costly than what unfolded on Friday in Portugal, but it’s amazing to contemplate that it’s been so long since they both retired on the same leg of the WRC.
Hirvonen ultimately went on to win that weekend, and you can check out the full rally results on eWRC-results.com.