Loeb to make DTM debut with Ferrari team

The nine-time WRC champion will make his debut at Portimão later this month

Sébastien Loeb

Nine-time World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb will make an unexpected return to circuit racing, acting as a stand-in replacement at Red Bull’s DTM team at the Portimão season opener at the end of April.

Loeb’s 2022 program was already diverse, taking in the WRC, Extreme E, the World Rally-Raid Championship and Andros Trophy. DTM adds a fifth discipline to his bustling schedule for this year – albeit one where he’s only making a guest appearance.

“In my career I’ve always enjoyed changing disciplines,” said Loeb. “DTM is a famous championship, so when I had this opportunity to participate, for sure I took it – it’s an exciting challenge because the driving style is completely opposite.”

This year’s Monte Carlo Rally winner will pilot an AF Corse-prepared Ferrari 488 GTE, replacing regular driver Nick Cassidy who has a scheduling clash with Formula E in Monaco on the DTM season-opening date.

Sébastien Loeb

Circuit racing is nothing new for Loeb. He successfully took on the Le Mans 24 Hours, scoring second place overall in a Pescarolo prototype in 2006. When his career as a full-time WRC driver came to an end, he switched across to the World Touring Car Championship with Citroën, finishing third in the standings two years running.

DTM recently switched from a bespoke silhouette formula to GTE regulations. While Loeb has never raced a GTE car, he does have experience in other GT formulas, having competed in the FIA GT Series in a McLaren MP4-12C GT3 back in 2013. He scored four wins that year on his way to fourth in the standings.

“I will have to fight against specialists in these kinds of races and it’s a long time since my last real GT3 race,” said Loeb.

Sébastien Loeb

“My goal will be to find my rhythm as best as possible and I will try to use my experience to give good feedback to the team about the settings of the car. I know it will be tough, but the cars are really fun to drive – really fast, nice cars – so I’m looking forward to it.”

Loeb’s seat time is only confirmed for the season opener for now but Cassidy also has a schedule clash for the Norisring DTM round at the beginning of July.

With no Extreme E, W2RC or WRC rounds on that date, Loeb is theoretically free to deputize for Cassidy at the Norisring.

Words:Alasdair Lindsay

Photography:Red Bull