Sébastien Loeb has expressed surprise after securing an 80th World Rally Championship victory on the 2022 Monte Carlo Rally, as he was no longer sure he could win rallies at the top level.
New M-Sport signing Loeb, who at present has no WRC program beyond this event, battled with reigning world champion Sébastien Ogier for victory from start to finish.
Though Loeb’s path to victory was assisted by a penultimate stage puncture for Ogier’s Toyota Yaris and the a jump-start penalty in the powerstage, he still scored six stage wins on his way to a 10.5-second victory.
That came as a surprise to Loeb, who had been at a loss to explain why he wasn’t fast on sealed surfaces during his prior two-year stint at Hyundai in 2019 and ’20.
When asked by DirtFish if he thought winning the Monte had been a possibility on his return to the WRC, Loeb replied: “I didn’t, no.”
“I was a bit more confident on gravel than on Tarmac, from my last experience. What is nice is that I didn’t lose my speed on Tarmac.
“When finally I have a car that suits my driving, it’s going quite well. So I’m really happy for this.
“I didn’t know if I can [win], no. I didn’t even think that.”
Loeb’s victory this week is in stark contrast to his previous Monte start in 2020 with Hyundai, where he was running fourth for most of the rally before a tire gamble backfired and dropped him to sixth on the last day.
That rally had been a stark contrast to his final outing with Citroën, the team with which he won all nine of his world championship titles, where he won the 2018 edition of Rally Spain.
Not getting to grips with the previous-generation i20 Coupe WRC on asphalt had made Loeb question whether he was still capable of running at the front.
“It was one thing I was always thinking about: I didn’t know why when I did my comeback with Citroën in Catalunya, the next year I finished the gravel leading the rally and then I was slow like hell on Tarmac. I never understood how I could lose everything in one year.
“Now it seems I didn’t lose everything, so I’m happy about that.”