Sébastien Loeb looked slightly bemused. What was wrong with his own shoes? He quite liked his Citroën-liveried Sabelt race boots. They’d certainly served him well for the previous three days. And cowboy boots, well they weren’t really his thing…
They were now.
That was 2008. The nine-time World Rally champion would end the following three Rally México Sundays proudly wearing the cowboy boots that had come to befit the winner of the León-based WRC qualifier.
And still to this day, victory in Guanajuato means driver and co-driver removing their own footwear in favor of the most sought-after boots in the World Rally Championship.
With the tradition not starting until 2008, two years on from Loeb’s first win, nobody has more pairs that Sébastien Ogier.
Six pairs of cowboy boots adorn the wardrobe of the eight-time world champion.
“It’s always nice to pull the boots on on a Sunday after Rally México,” smiled Ogier at the memory. “It means you had a good weekend. But when I go home, do I wear them at home? Not so much.”
Why would he? They’re a trophy.
But how did it all start?
León is the shoe and boot-making capital of México. Rally of Nations Guanajuato manager Gilles Spitalier tells the tale.
He said: “I was asked by the León shoe association to get the winning driver’s shoes for their museum. In 2008, I arranged exchange of driving shoes for some very fine boots made in León. We did this and we took Sébastien’s boots.
“Nobody really thought this was going to become a thing, but when the drivers put the boots on, we made an agreement with the FIA to change the finish protocol to include this exchange of boots. It was great and worked really well to demonstrate the Méxican look with the bottle of Corona and big Méxican hat.
“To be honest, a few years later I was a bit worried that people might get tired of the whole cowboy boots thing. I thought about stopping it. Sébastien Loeb had just stopped driving in the WRC and I wasn’t sure the next winner would wear the boots like he had.
“Patrick [Suberville, Rally of Nations director] called me and told me the media was talking a lot about it and asking: ‘Who will wear the boots on Sunday?’
“It had really become quite a big thing. We kept it going and now it’s something we really enjoy – and everybody is always very happy to wear the boots! It’s a trademark for Rally México.”