Sébastien Loeb has maintained his 100% winning record in rallying for 2023 after being victorious on Rallye National Charlemagne in a Volkswagen Polo GTI R5.
The nine-time World Rally champion won by 15.9 seconds over Citroën driver Stéphane Lefebvre, who pipped 2019 European Rally champion Chris Ingram by just 0.9s.
Loeb’s only other rally (and win) this year was the Azores Rally six months ago, and he drove a Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 on that event. He had never driven a Polo before this weekend, but won five of Saturday’s six stages alongside co-driver Laurène Godey.
That allowed him to back off a touch on Sunday as the battle for second heated up. Loeb has now gone unbeaten on his last three starts in the French Rally Cup, with his last appearance not to result in a win being in 1999.
Lefebvre was initially Loeb’s closest challenger, lying just 0.9s in arrears after stage two, but a poor time on SS3 dropped him behind Ingram.
But the reigning Belgian Rally champion went on an inspired charge on Sunday, winning three of the final day’s four stages to apply the pressure to his rival. Ingram did his best to hold on, beating Lefebvre on the final stage. But in the end the Briton had to settle for third.
It was an impressive performance from Ingram and co-driver Alex Kihurani nonetheless considering Loeb and Lefebvre’s superior experience – backing up the promise they showed on the Ypres Rally earlier this year where they were runners-up to M-Sport’s Adrien Fourmaux and Alexandre Coria.
Ingram is expected to enter the next round of the World Rally Championship, the new Central European Rally, at the end of this month.