Sebastien Loeb has admitted that news of his dismissal from Citroen’s WTCC team came as a “surprise”, as the project was originally meant to last for three years.
After months of speculation, Citroen announced on Thursday that it will pull out of the WTCC entirely after 2016, slimming down its four-car works squad to two cars for its third and final season before it switches its focus to WRC from 2017.
With Jose Maria Lopez and Yvan Muller keeping their seats, this left no room for Loeb, who will now instead turn his focus towards rally-raid with Peugeot, starting with January’s Dakar Rally.
But the nine-time WRC champion said it had been his intention to compete in WTCC again in 2016 until a last-minute change of plan by Citroen.
“I was surprised to learn that I would not be continuing with Citroen Racing in 2016,” said Loeb in a statement on his official website.
“We built this WTCC challenge together with my personal goal of clinching the drivers’ title within three years. I am disappointed to learn that the project is stopped after just two years.
"I was focussed on winning the title and I proved that I was pretty competitive behind the wheel of the C-Elysee, scoring four wins in 2015.
“That puts an end on a magnificent story, and I have no regrets. On the contrary, I’ll keep fantastic memories of my time in the WTCC.”
Loeb has been part of the Citroen fold since the dawn of his rallying career at the turn of the century, clinching an incredible 78 WRC wins as well as six in the WTCC with the French brand.
“Since the beginning of 2000, Citroen has been in my heart,” said the 41-year-old. “I have lived extraordinary moments with them, moments that I only dreamed of when I was young.
“We wrote some of the best pages of Citroen’s history in motorsport. I know I was lucky to be part of it.
“I shared these great moments with the men and the women of Citroen Racing, my mechanics and engineers and also with [WRC co-driver] Daniel Elena.”
A new chapter
Looking towards his future with Peugeot, Loeb added: “I am now fully focussed on the future and other projects that captivate me as strongly as the WTCC.
"One of them is the Dakar, which I will contest in a few weeks’ time with Peugeot Sport. I am very happy to re-join this team, which I got to know when we contested the Pikes Peak together.
“We will face new challenges, but it’s a bit too early to say exactly what and where. I can simply say that I am still passionate about motorsport and I am still fully motivated and determined to win races.
“I’ve always liked to discover new things, and to win. The coming months should fulfil my desire to compete and I am excited to take on this new challenge.”