The Sébastien Loeb you see now – weather-beaten and suntanned after his adventures in the Saudi desert on the latest Dakar – is a very different animal to the fresh-faced youngster who burst onto the world rally scene more than 20 years ago, nearly winning his first rally with a factory World Rally Car.
These days, he looks more like a seasoned explorer than an aspiring member of a boy band. It’s easy to understand why: now aged 47, he’s won everything there is to win – nine World Rally titles and 79 WRC victories, for the record – and travelled the world in pursuit of his art. Through mud, mountains, snow, ice, asphalt and desert: in temperatures that have ranged from lower than –20deg C on Rally Sweden to more than 40deg C in the heat of the Arabian desert.
He’s lived, laughed, loved, given it everything. So now, as he puts it himself: “I’m driving mainly for pleasure.” Mainly, because he’s still serious about winning, especially when it comes to Dakar, which so far has slipped through his fingers in the same way that Le Mans did, with a best result of second.