Sebastian Loeb – The Greatest Rally Driver of All Time?
Updated August 24, 2013
The Greatest Of All Time – It is a statement that few sportsmen can lay claim to achieving and is always of constant dispute among fans. It takes a very special sportsman then to come along, who dominates in such a way that all fans can nod in agreement. It is something that not even record breaking 7 times World Champion Michael Schumacher has been able to do in Formula 1, as his career has been tarnished with a rather bitter brush by some F1 fans.
In the FIA’s other main series – The WRC, there is one man that has dominated Rallying in a way that no other driver can lay claim to in Motorsport, his name? Sebastian Loeb. In his 9 full competitive seasons Loeb has managed to win a record 8 titles on the trot (finishing 2nd in his first season) which dwarfs even the greatest achievements that the King of rallying himself Janu Kankunnen managed to achieve in his illustrious career. But it has come to the point where like Schumacher; Loeb has entered a stage of his career where doubters are starting to question his achievements and that is down to one thing – competition.
Like Formula 1 throughout the early 2000’s it seems many fans have questioned the true talent of the drivers in the WRC field that seemingly are helpless in stopping the Loeb juggernaut. This comparing of eras is something that happens in all the top series of Motorsport, and is something that can unfortunately undo all of your achievements in an instant.
Throughout the 80’s and early 90’s Rallying had reached its peak where all the great champions flourished amongst a super competitive field. Drivers such as Markku Alen, Janu Kankunnen, Stig Blomqvist, Didier Auriol, Walter Rohrl and Carlos Sainz, will all go down as legends of the sport where they won the championship against a huge array of world class driver’s in equally fast machinery. It is this competitive nature of a championship which sees fans flourish. This means championships in an era dominated by those names will always be remembered and loved more than throughout the current Loeb era.
It can be argued however that there is simply no competition in Loeb’s era due to the fact that he is so good. He is Citroen’s golden child brought up through their junior ranks set to conquer the world over and over again. He has never been a driver for any other marquee which shows immaculate dedication to a brand that has made him the 8 times consecutive champion. It is this utter domination that shines through when we look at the season itself. Since Peugeot’s and Subaru’s withdrawal from the sport in 2008 there has only been 3 works manufacturers competing. Suzuki firstly produced a semi works outfit which showed no signs of competitiveness and ceased shortly after. Mini WRC backed by Prodrive have entered this 2012 season as a full works outfit as an attempt to break Loeb’s and Citroen’s stranglehold.
But when Loeb’s eventually retires and we look back at his decade of dominance, can we really suggest he is the best of the best? A world beater beyond the talent of Kankunnen and Rohrl? It is something I do not think we have the ability to assess based on the different eras and their circumstances.
My name is James Parker, I am Business Developments Manager of Official Merchandise and also permanent blogger and writer. Most of my work can be found on the Official Merchandise Blog. I am a passionate Motorsport and Formula 1 fan, with a passion for writing about the sport I have loved for nearly 14 years.
Categories: Gear Grinding