Loeb takes two top-20 finishes on DTM debut

The nine-time WRC champion brings his Red Bull-backed Ferrari home twice on his German GT appearance at Algarve track

Sébastien Loeb

Nine-time World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb recorded a pair of top-20 finishes on his first outing in the DTM at the Algarve circuit.

The 80-time WRC event winner, driving for the AF Corse-run Red Bull AlphaTauri team at the wheel of a Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo, standing in for the team’s regular driver Nick Cassidy, managed 16th and 18th-place results in the weekend’s two races.

Loeb was new to the Algarve circuit in Portugal, and took part in the mid-week private test session on Wednesday, placing 28th out of 30 cars, just 1.6 seconds off the leading pace.

Despite testing the Ferrari at Hockenheim and Spa-Francorchamps in the build-up to the weekend, Loeb appreciated the level of the challenge ahead of the opening round.

Sébastien Loeb

“For me, this weekend will be tough,” he said pre-weekend. “Because I’m racing against specialists in this category and even though I tested in Spa and Hockenheim earlier this year, I’m under no illusion it will be hard.

“Red Bull asked me if I was interested in taking part in a DTM race. I said yes, I’d be very interested, but I expect hard times as I’m aware of the high level of this field.”

When the weekend officially got underway, Loeb was 26th in the first free practice session before improving to 12th in the second.

Starting 21st for the first 55-minute (+ one lap) race, Loeb did what many other more experienced GT drivers failed to do and keep his nose clean in the early stages. The Ferrari wasn’t the fastest car in a straight line, but Loeb was able to fight with others around him, lapping just over a second slower than the ultimate fastest lap by second-place finisher Luca Stolz.

DTM, 1. + 2. Rennen Portimao 2022 - Foto: Gruppe C Photography

Loeb started 27th for the second race but again moved up places as a first-lap incident took five cars out of the race.

With pit strategy key in the DTM, Loeb’s AlphaTauri team elected to keep him out on track until the end of the half-an-hour mandatory pitstop window. Loeb, therefore, ran as high as second overall in the race before making his stop, eventually rejoining just outside the top 20.

He made up two more places before the end of the race, finishing a creditable 18th.

Following Lucas Auer’s victory in race one, Swiss driver Nico Müller won the second encounter for Team Rosberg Audi.

Sébastien Loeb

With two third-place finishes, Lamborghini driver Mirko Bortolotti leads the championship standings for Grasser Racing Team ahead of round two at the Lausitzring.

Although Loeb has followed in the footsteps of fellow World Rally Champion Sébastien Ogier – who achieved a best finish of 12th place on his only DTM appearance at the Red Bull Ring in 2018 – Loeb is unlikely to make more outings this year as he prioritizes his rally raid campaign.

“There’s no plan for another outing in DTM, but let’s wait and see what the future holds,” said Loeb. “My only reconnaissance was in the simulator and the test this week.

“My focus this year is to win in the Rally-Raid World Championship, but I always want to give my best in any competition.”

Words:Stephen Brunsdon

Photos:Red Bull Content Pool