There are few people who can be compared to the most successful man in motorsport. But this isn’t some Formula One playboy, it’s a man who’s made his name and risked his life among the trees and rockwalls of the world’s forests and mountains.
Following official confirmation of Sébastien Loeb’s victory in the 2011 World Rally Championship season, 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-equaling six rally victories for the year. Loeb also silenced his critics along the way, who claimed he was a tarmac specialist. Yet he 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 on 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 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 a strong enough points lead, 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 completing a competitive season with 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 WRC’s first-ever five-time champion in the penultimate round of the season. Despite taking the driver’s 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 for 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 the victory.
2010 Rallye de France-Alsace
Loeb enjoyed a triumphant homecoming in 2010. The Rally of France moved from its traditional home on the island of Corsica, to Alsace. Having grown-up in the area, Loeb took victory on the final stage in his hometown of Haguenau and, in doing so, he achieved his seventh consecutive FIA World Rally title.
2011 Wales Rally GB
Armed with the brand-new 300hp 1.6-liter turbocharged 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 teammate, Sébastien Ogier, in the sister DS3 WRC. He 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 Ford’s Mikko Hirvonen. Despite having to retire from the event on the final day, Loeb secured a record-breaking eighth FIA World Drivers’ Championship title when Hirvonen also encountered problems and retired!