LOEB GRAVEL TEST COULD HELP CITROËN CHANCES AT RALLY AUSTRALIA

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LOEB GRAVEL TEST COULD HELP CITROËN CHANCES AT RALLY AUSTRALIA

SÉBASTIEN Loeb is being lined up to test Citroën’s C3 on gravel after the nine-time world champion gave the French manufacturer valuable data on asphalt in a test last week.

With the final three 2017 WRC events in Spain, Great Britain and Australia featuring loose-surface stages, Loeb’s input could give Citroën the performance boost it needs to end a disappointing season on a positive note.

The 43-year-old linked with long-time co-driver Daniel Elena to test the 2017-specification C3 in both wet and dry conditions in the Moselle region of France.

The duo provided plenty of useful feedback and Citroën Racing team principal Yves Matton confirmed they could now conduct a similar evaluation exercise on gravel.

“For the moment, nothing is decided but I think it will be interesting to have him on a gravel test session,” Matton told wrc.com.

Speculation about Loeb being lined up to make a WRC return has gathered momentum since news of the Frenchman’s planned asphalt test broke at Neste Rally Finland last month.

Although Matton ruled out a competitive WRC return this season, he didn’t discount the possibility of Loeb resuming his distinguished WRC career at a later date.

In the meantime, the data Loeb has gathered already could be used to boost Citroën’s asphalt performance as drivers Kris Meeke, Craig Breen and Andreas Mikkelsen prepare to do battle at ADAC Rallye Deutschland on 17-20 August.

Loeb enjoyed his asphalt test and told wrc.com afterwards: “The feeling was really good. It was impressive how fast it is in the fast corners compared to an old World Rally Car.

“The feeling on the dry tarmac at the end was really fast. I do not have a lot of cars to compare, but compared to the old WRCs, everything is a little bit better.

“The car is more nervous than an old WRC, so that made it quite complicated, but at the end of the day the feeling in the dry was very good.

“The first feeling was that it was a bit of a racing car on a rally stage. When it’s full dry, it’s fast and efficient, but in tricky conditions it would be nice to improve a bit the driveability and make it easier to drive.”

Loeb denied the test could be the start of a WRC comeback with Citroën, for which he dominated the championship between 2004 and 2012. He scored 78 wins up till last appearance at the 2015 Rallye Monte-Carlo.

“The plan was just to come here to test the car. For me it was a good opportunity to discover the new WRC cars and for Citroën it was an opportunity to have my comments about the car, with my experience of general rally.

“At the moment we do not have any plan for the future,” added Loeb, who currently drives with PSA stablemate Peugeot in world rallycross and cross-country rallies.