That’s it then. Or is it? Maybe. Maybe not.
Either way, talking to Sébastien Loeb at the end of Rally Turkey felt odd. We know there’s no Hyundai seat for him for the two remaining rounds of the World Rally Championship; we know he’s going to drive Dakar for Prodrive (when I say know, I mean I’m 99.9% sure…) and we know he doesn’t have a WRC deal next year.
This one was different. When I spoke to him at the end of Rally de France in Alsace in 2013, he was staying in the sport on a regular basis as part of Citroën’s World Touring Car Championship effort. Now, beyond his likely Bahrain-backed January, we don’t know what the nine-time WRC champ will be up to.
And, right now, nor does he.
“I have a plan for Dakar next year, but after that I don’t have a plan,” he told DirtFish. “It’s not the plan to come back to the WRC. For sure, I will drive a rally car again, but in which championship and on which rallies I have no idea.”
If Turkey was the last time we see Loeb in a factory car, it would be a nice way to sign off. Naturally, the romantics out there would hanker after career win number 80, but a podium and the lead’s not a bad second.
“It was nice,” said Loeb. “I was happy that I could find again the rhythm for the driving and to lead and fight with the drivers at the front. This was good. I wasn’t so happy to destroy my tires on the first morning – this wasn’t so good. But I’m happy.
“I enjoyed my career with this sport and, like I always say, it’s incredible to be able to drive these cars we have now. I really missed driving [during lockdown] and to come back to this car again [in Turkey]… you know, the things you can do with these [current] cars is just amazing. You cannot imagine what you could do on the rough stages and how we can play with the car and the performance.
“The cars when I started my career were really good, really nice, but you can’t compare them to now. The suspension, the engine management the tires even the grip and the speed we can have in the stages is just amazing compared with the past.
“Like I said, I did my career I still enjoy to drive. I don’t plan a full championship or anything like this and I’m happy to be like this. It’s good that I found the rhythm again, but now I think to Dakar and prepare for what’s coming in the next few weeks.”
Cue the joint announcement from Banbury and Bahrain.
And will we see the man who defined world rallying for a decade at the very top of the WRC again? The man who started 180 WRC rounds and finished on the podium 119 times?
Time for the definitive answer.