Sebastien Loeb will return to the FIA World Rally Championship for three races with Citroen in 2018.
The nine-time champion will pilot a C3 car in Mexico (March 8-11), Corsica (April 5-8) and Catalunya (October 25-28), partnering with regular co-driver Daniel Elena. Kris Meeke will lead the Citroen Abu Dhabi World Rally Team while Craig Breen will drive the second car at 10 rounds. Khalid Al Qassimi will appear in a third car at a handful of rallies.
The pairing reunites the Loeb-Elena partnership that earned 78 rally wins. Having retired from full-time racing at the end of 2012, the 43-year-old Loeb is returning to courses where he’s picked up multiple wins: six in Mexico, four in Corsica and eight in Spain.
“The feeling you get in rally is one of the most thrilling feelings I’ve ever experienced, and I was excited about driving one of these new WRCs in a race. It’s nice to be able to do it in the team with which I’ve enjoyed so much success,” he said.
“I don’t have any expectations, I just want to enjoy myself. I thought it made sense to take part in the French round, especially since I’ve always loved racing on tarmac, although I’m not familiar with the current route of the Tour de Corse.
“Spain seemed like a good option too. And although I’m expecting it to be pretty tough given the time that has passed since I last competed there, I also wanted to contest a gravel rally.
“We opted for Mexico, since I have good memories of racing there and the route hasn’t changed too much since I was last involved in the championship.”
Said Citroen Racing team principal Yves Matton: “For 2018, we have decided to capitalize on what we’ve been building for a number of seasons now with Kris and Craig. Kris’ speed is unquestionable, and with the more relaxed mindset he had at the end of the year, he proved he had it in him to be a leader. The aim will be to target podiums, secure some wins, but Kris can also go for position in the championship.
“I’m also delighted to see that there will be another chapter in the great history between Sébastien Loeb and Citroen: he couldn’t have returned to the WRC with anyone other than us! Seb confirmed that he has lost none of his speed and skill during the test sessions completed, although he is bound to be short of knowledge of the stages and time in the car, compared with the increasingly tough competition.
On Stephane Lefebvrfe, who will be tasked with driving the Citroen C3 R5 on its debut season in the WRC2, Matton said, “We still believe in Stephane: we are convinced that he will be a good ambassador for the Citroën C3 R5, for which the brand has great hopes. And this programme will allow him to continue to add to his experience and therefore keep improving.”
The team sits two wins away from 100 WRC victories.