Sebastien Loeb has taken another step towards a potential WRC return after testing a Citroen World Rally Car on gravel for the first time in more than four years on Wednesday.
The potential for a Loeb return to the world championship is understood to hinge on the outcome of today’s loose surface test near Girona.
Despite his positivity, the nine-time world champion wouldn’t be drawn on whether he would be back in WRC competition for the first time since a one-off outing on the 2015 Monte Carlo Rally.
After testing the C3 WRC for the first time on asphalt in July, Loeb said he wanted to run the car on gravel before he made any conclusions.
Citroen team principal Yves Matton told Motorsport.com no decisions would be taken regarding a Loeb return – albeit on a likely limited programme – until after Wednesday.
After driving on a dry gravel road with a mixture of fast and technical sections, Loeb told Motorsport.com: “I don’t know how many kilometres [I did], but a lot and the feeling was good.
"It was nice to discover this car on gravel. For me it’s nearly five years I didn’t drive the World Rally Car on gravel.”
Loeb’s final gravel WRC outing was in Argentina, 2013, but his full-time programme ended with that ninth title in Spain, 2012.
Loeb added: “It was, for me, a question if I would be able to drive with the WRC on gravel and if I would be able to drive correctly. The feeling was quite good and it came quite quickly. I feel comfortable in the car.
“For me, it was quite a good surprise the feeling I could get in the car – but I don’t have any other reference of this generation of car, so I don’t know how [we are compared with] the other cars.”
Loeb admitted there remained concern at the lack of grip from the rear of the Citroen in some sections, saying: “In the twisty sections I find it quite easy to drive, in the fast sections it’s a bit more pointy and a bit more like it is on tarmac – it’s more difficult to feel the grip on the rear in these places.
"But except for this it’s OK. It’s good. We are working to find more grip now. We are looking at different solutions now, we look to find something better. Overall it’s not bad.”
Asked directly what the test meant for the future, Loeb said: “Nothing is decided. We have to go and think about today first.”
Stephane Lefebvre tested the C3 on Tuesday and Kris Meeke will be behind the wheel on Thursday.
Meeke and Lefebvre will be joined in the Citroen team by Khalid Al Qassimi for the next round of the WRC, Rally of Spain in two weeks.