x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Loeb eyeing more glory

The six-time World Rally champion has no plans of taking his foot off the pedal.

You could be forgiven for thinking that after winning a record-breaking six world championships in a row with Citroen in the World Rally Championship (WRC) that Sebastien Loeb would be thinking about taking his foot off the pedal and easing back. The Frenchman has effectively done it all. Winning every title since 2004 and racking up an astonishing 54 wins making him comfortably the most successful driver in the sport's history.

Despite the glittering array of honours already in his trophy cabinet, Loeb says he is as hungry as ever for success as he prepares to start his quest for a seventh title in Sweden today. "With this season about to begin I'm still in the same frame of mind as last year. I'll start every rally with the intention of winning it," the 35-year-old said. "Since I lost the title by one point [back in 2003 to Petter Solberg] I've always applied the same logic. Every point is vital when you want to win a championship as difficult as the World Rally Championship. The way things went last year only confirmed this viewpoint."

Sweden, which began last night with the opening Super Special stage before the action begins in earnest today with seven stages, has not been a happy venue in the past for Loeb. His lone success in the event came back in 2004 and he crashed out of the last staging in 2008. He said he will be treating the cold conditions with care. "I like starting the season with this rally but it looks like the conditions are going to be very difficult," he said. "

"You just have to stay on the road, which isn't all that easy when I think back to 2008. My only aim is to rack up another world title, but the way last season panned out shows that you can't count your chickens before they've hatched. "The conditions will be very different to those of the 2008 event. Snow has fallen on frozen gravel, the temperature hasn't risen above zero and the snow hasn't been transformed into a layer of ice.

"We're faced with a layer of powdery snow covering frozen earth so the grip level is going to keep on changing. "It's a bit like Russian roulette, and I'd really prefer a good layer of ice with constant grip. I don't think I'm the favourite as the Finns will feel much more at home than me, but you just have to keep it between the hedges." The new face at Citroen this year is Kimi Raikkonen, the former Formula One driver, who is competing in the series full-time after making an impressive debut in Rally Finland last August.

The Finnish driver, who won the Formula One world championship in 2007, will compete in the team's Junior squad with Frenchman Sebastien Ogier. "I'm just really keen to get to the start of Rally Sweden now," said Raikkonen. "With Citroen, we have made some good preparations for this event. I know that I still have many things to learn and plenty of experience to accumulate." One thing that is changing for this season is the points system as the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile have altered WRC's to mirror the scoring system in Formula One. Rather than 10 points, the rally winner will now score 25, with second place earning 18 and third place receiving 15. The top 10 will all score points rather than the first eight as had been the case.

gcaygill@thenational.ae