Following official confirmation of his success in the 2011 WRC season, Sébastien Loeb is now the most titled racing driver ever.
With eight consecutive FIA World Rally Drivers’ titles to his name, Loeb has moved ahead of seven-time champions Michael Schumacher and Valentino Rossi in terms of major motorsport championships won – a feat never achieved before across all senior motorsport categories.
Here are some of the highlights from his record-breaking eight championship winning seasons:
2004 Rally Sweden
Loeb’s first title came in a year that the Frenchman dominated the sport. He held a 36-point lead over his closest rival at the end of the season with a record-equalling six rally victories for the year. Loeb also silenced his critics along the way, confirming his status as a tarmac specialist, but also proving his skills on a number of different surfaces and terrains. He became the first non-Nordic driver to take victory on the icy Swedish stages.
2005 Rally Japan
Loeb had another record-beating season in 2005. Most consecutive rallies won (six); first driver to win seven rallies in a single season and he also broke a 25 year-old record by clinching the title with a 56-point margin at Rally Japan, the 13th round of 16. In France, his home rally, he became the first driver to win every single stage of a WRC event, taking all 12 fastest stage times over the weekend.
2006 Rally Cyprus
After winning the Rally of Cyprus in 2006, Loeb suffered a broken humerus bone in a mountain-biking accident near his home in Switzerland. Unable to compete in the remaining two rounds, Turkey and Australia, Loeb could only watch from home. Having built up a strong enough points lead though, he claimed the title at the end of Rally Australia.
2007 Rallye Automobile de Monte-Carlo
The Citroën C4 WRC made its debut in the 2007 Monte-Carlo Rally with Loeb ensuring the new model took victory on its first competitive outing. After enduring a competitive season with some hard fought victories, Loeb was able to pick up his fourth World Rally Championship title at Rally GB in December.
2008 Rally Japan
The setting of Rally Japan in 2008 was where Loeb became the WRCs first ever five-time champion in the penultimate round of the season. Despite taking the drivers crown in Japan, the team would have to wait until the finale in Great Britain to lift the Manufacturers’ trophy, their first since 2005.
2009 Wales Rally GB
Once again, the championship came down to the wire, with Great Britain the setting of the deciding round. Loeb entered the event trailing the championship battle by a single point. A stunning drive and a thrilling battle with Ford’s Hirvonen secured him the victory.
2010 Rallye de France-Alsace
Loeb enjoyed a triumphant home coming in 2010. The Rally of France moved from its traditional home on the island of Corsica, to the region of Alsace. Having grown up in the area, Loeb took victory on the final stage in his home town of Haguenau and in doing so, he also achieved his seventh consecutive FIA World Rally title.
2011 Wales Rally GB
Armed with the brand new 300bhp 1.6-litre turbo-charged DS3 WRC, it was a new season and a new era for the WRC in 2011. Loeb had competition not just from rivals, but also his own team mate. Sébastien Ogier, in the sister DS3 WRC, matched Loeb’s five rally victories during the season. However, Loeb’s consistent run of points allowed him to enter Wales Rally GB as the championship leader ahead of Mikko Hirvonen. Despite having to retire from the event on the final day, Loeb secured a record-breaking eighth FIA World Drivers’ Championship title!