World Rally Championship legend Sebastien Loeb voiced his surprise at leading the Dakar Rally at his very first attempt on its proper stages today, but did admit to getting stuck in the mud once.
Nine-time WRC champion Loeb led today’s 387km stage – which was shortened after yesterday’s heavy rain – from start to finish to record a 2m32s lead in his Peugeot over event-veteran teammate Stephane Peterhansel.
“It's a very good start,” said Loeb after he returned to the bivouac at Termas de Rio Hondo.
“The car is very, very good; our Peugeot was very fast in the stage and it's good news for the rest of the event – especially because the road was a little bit like a WRC stage, and the buggy is not the best on this kind of road, and not very easy to handle.
“Good drive, with just a little mistake in the mud but [after getting stuck] finally I could go again and I'm very happy with the result.
“I knew that I drove quite a good stage, except the mistake in the middle, but for the rest I was always drive with a good rhythm and without mistakes.
“I knew the stage couldn't be too bad, but I really didn't expect the best time because I was sure the four-wheel-drive cars would be faster than us in the stage”.
Different style from WRC
Although he said the stage was more in character to that found in the WRC than the Dakar, Loeb said he still had to change his approach to be quick.
“Is not the same kind of driving, WRC and rally raid, but I do what I can,” he said. “In the twisty places, the style is the same but in the fast corners you have to be more careful because you don't know what will arrive next. But the feeling was good.
“I think it's a very good start for Peugeot, much better then last year! But we have a long way in front and we know it's hard for cars and drivers.”
Interview by Elisabetta Caracciolo