Yes, you read that correctly. 9-time World Rally Champion and driving god Sebastien Loeb has joined Peugeot-Hansen for the full World Rallycross Championship (WorldRX) this year. It might be the worlds worst kept secret though, as Petter Solberg have mentioned Loebs arrival to the sport several times the last few months. Can Loeb beat Solberg (among others), and win his 10th FIA title?
Things are so far lined up perfectly for success. Peugeot-Hansen is considered a full works Peugeot Sport team despite it being based in Sweden. Team Principal is legendary rallycross driver Kenneth Hansen, a driver with more FIA titles than Loeb and Solberg combined! His son Timmy Hansen was able to challenge for the title until the very last event in 2015, with a Peugeot 208 similar to what the team will use this year. The team ended up with the teams title last year thanks to 5 event wins and several podiums, often while being dominant in the heats.
Loeb is often considered one of the most adaptable drivers in the world, with a Dakar entry as the most recent addition to his lengthy career. His first tries at winning a 10th FIA title came in WTCC in 2014 and 2015, but while maintaining a surprisingly high pace his teammates José Maria Lopez and Yvan Muller finished ahead of him both years. Meanwhile past rally rival Petter Solberg have won two titles in WorldRX, and became the first driver to ever win the World Championship in two different FIA disciplines.
Is it all set for Loeb to become champion again this year then? If we judge from last time he worked with Hansen everything should be just fine, as he won the X-Games in 2012 in a Hansen Citroën. Judging from the last time he entered rallycross he will need to step it up a notch, as he couldn’t reach the final at Loheac in 2013.
Among the competitors, Petter Solberg is still a privateer but has received some upgraded parts from Citroën in front of this season. He is as motivated as ever, and could benefit from being the sole #1 driver in his team he says in a recent interview with NRK. Loeb will get strong competition from his teammeate Timmy Hansen, who will also have the individual title as his aim this season. Team tactics aren’t too common in rallycross, but there might come some unpopular decisions if the team has to chose between Hansen and Loeb. The entry of a works Ford team with Ken Block and Andreas Bakkerud as well as the constant improvement of VW and Johan Kristoffersson will ensure that we won’t have a Loeb domination in rallycross. He will be hard to beat though.