Great fights and green fingers – Elena’s lockdown guide

Sébastien Loeb's co-driver has been reliving battles with Britain's WRC champions, and spending more time in the garden

Daniel Elena Hyundai WRC 2019

Gardening, McRae, Burns and some special words. Those are some of the key ingredients for nine-time World Rally Champion co-driver Daniel Elena getting through the current lockdown period.

The man who has co-driven Sébastien Loeb on all 179 of his World Rally Championship starts – from which he has 79 wins and 139 points finishes – is in the south of France, enjoying the opportunity to refine his pétanque technique and grow some lettuce.

Elena told Hyundai Motorsport’s ‘Home Shakedown’ feature: “I tried to plant some things for salad ingredients but it’s all completely new for me. I’m not sure what we’ll have at the end! I am usually in Monaco, travelling or keeping busy.

“It’s unusual for me to be in the same place for so long.

“Everything is fine, but of course, like everybody else, the days are long when you are closed in at home. Fortunately, I have a garden so it’s easy for me to go outside, do some gardening, and play some boules.”

When he goes inside, he’s using YouTube to remind himself of some classic battles against the Brits.

He added: “There are a lot of memories that come to mind in these moments. Looking back at past events with Colin [McRae], with Richard [Burns], and of course with us when we [Elena and Loeb] were younger.

“It’s nice that you have all these fan montages on YouTube. It’s like online solidarity, trying to put together all of these special moments for everyone to relive in these long, difficult days.

“Sometimes I play on the PlayStation, I watch some TV, spend some time following the daily situation online. But it’s not easy for everybody. There are lots of less fortunate people, those with smaller apartments or without gardens; that’s a far tougher situation.”

Switching sides and taking the wheel is, of course, nothing new for Elena. Ahead of his first season co-driving for Loeb, Elena made the first of two appearances on his home round of the World Rally Championship. In 1998 he drove a Peugeot 106 Rallye to second in class (N1). Thirteen years later, he placed a DS3 R3T 52nd overall and gave the crowds something to cheer with a special display on the top of the Col de Turini.

Has he improved on that in the virtual world?

“I try my best,” said Elena, “but I have managed to confirm that I am better as a co-driver. I struggle to finish most stages because it’s so demanding. I’ll leave the driving to Séb, for sure.”

With Loeb talking about taking to board games with Monopoly last week, Elena admitted he’d followed that lead.

“For me, it’s Scrabble,” he said. “But it’s a special version called Danos’s words!”

Daniel Elena Hyundai WRC 2020

Could Scrabble be the way forward when he’s sharing longhaul flights with Loeb? Apparently not.

“No, no, no! With Séb, it would be impossible. He’s a driver. We have been staying in close contact, sharing some pictures and updates.

“I am also receiving lots of messages from Andrea [Adamo, Hyundai Motorsport director]. He has been wanting to know we’re all OK. He’s a good boss and keeps in regular touch with us all – drivers and co-drivers – we all want to return to rallying as soon as it’s safe to do so.

“Staying home right now is the most important thing. If everybody respects the rules, stays at home, waits a bit, hopefully this will pass quickly.

“I am also thinking about the members of our team and hope they are all safe. We will return from this at maximum attack.”