Prior to racing, Sebastien was also an accomplished gymnast, having won several tournaments from both regional and national competitions. Upon entering the world of racing, he immediately made his mark and steadily rose among the ranks of the finest racers in the world.
Son of a Gymnast
Sebastien Loeb was born in the small town of Haguenau in 1974. Born to Guy and Ingrid Loeb, who were both inclined in sports, it seems that the thrill of engaging in sports was always in Sebastien’s blood. Guy was a former gymnast champion, which brought inspiration to the young Sebastien, who by the age of three already started practicing the sport.
He became very adept at gymnastics and participated in regional and nationwide gymnastic competitions, becoming a four time Alsace champion, Grand East champion, and fifth place at the French national championships. Sebastien became passionate in practicing gymnastics until he reached the age of fifteen, when his true calling in life finally came to light.
Aside from being a magnificent gymnast, Sebastien was also an exceptional student. Both Guy and Ingrid worked as teachers, so they instilled a sense of educational importance in the young Sebastien. His mother would often spend a lot of time teaching Sebastien even after he got home from school, which broadened his knowledge and gave him an advantage over his fellow students at school. However, in spite of his reputation of being an ‘exemplary’ pupil in school, Sebastien often felt that there was still something missing in his life.
Sebastien had always loved to race since he was a child, but it was not until he reached his teens that the passion for driving – more specifically racing – would fully flourish. In a few of the interviews made with him, Sebastien would often recall that when he was around five or six, he would often play racing with his friends; it did not matter whether they used bicycles or tricycles, as long as an opportunity would open for him to be able to race, he would take it.
By the age of fourteen, Sebastien began to shift his interest into racing more and more, and would often engage in moped racing with his schoolmates or with other teenagers. They would make various challenges that got Sebastien into trouble with the neighbours because of the ‘disasters’ that they left after their races.
Sebastien’s passion for driving took to the next level by the time he was in secondary school. In 1992, Sebastien dropped out of school because he thought that he was not learning what he needed to learn and opted to pursue his racing career.
Spending His Entire Salary for a Renault GT Turbo
After focusing on learning more about driving for the next two years, Sebastien realized that if he was going to be successful in the racing world, he had to invest in it. So in 1994, he returned to schooling and took a vocational electrical training, completing the course after passing the exam for electricians.
After graduating, Sebastien began working at the Socalec Company as an electrician. He immediately became quite well-known within the company for his ‘reckless’ driving, which he described more as ‘daring’. He also spent his entire salary to buy the car of his dreams – a Renault GT Turbo, which he often took to the highways to practice his driving. He often got into trouble with the cops, which affected his work by being unpunctual.
In spite of his problem with punctuality, which could have gotten him fired, Sebastien found favour with his boss whom he shared his love and passion for driving with. His boss, who owned a Ferrari Testarossa, treated Sebastien with kindness and often adjusted Sebastien’s schedule so he could race. Sebastien took this as an opportunity to further practice his driving skills and join in local races, where his natural talent for driving finally came out.
Wins and Losses
In 1995, a wonderful door of opportunity came to Sebastien when he saw an advertisement for that year’s Rallye Jeunes, a major racing event that gave potential young drivers a good start in professional racing. With an entry fee of one hundred francs (to which Sebastien used up all his savings), Sebastien went on to win the regional selection and the final of Le Castellet.
In spite of his advantage, he was not declared the winner; the championship was given to an opponent of his that started the event after dark. Despite this initial disappointment, Sebastien never lost his passion for racing. In fact, it was after his race that he realized that he would have to put all of his time and effort if he was to win in future races, so he immediately resigned from work to focus on racing.
The next two years proved to be challenging, as Sebastien kept on failing to win the championships. In spite of this, he kept on pursuing his dream, being confident on the inside that he had what it takes to become a world-renowned race car driver. However, there was a problem: he still wanted to race, but his funds were soon running out. He needed a sponsor to get him inside the game if he was to continue his racing career.
Fortunately, his efforts in showing off his driving skills did not go wasted; he was soon taken interest in by Dominique Heintz and Remi Mammosser, two famous race car drivers of the Ambition Sport Auto team. In 1997, Sebastien entered a regional race, finally making his first win. This marked not only the first for Sebastien, but a first for the entire team as well; Dominique was so impressed that he made Sebastien his co-pilot so Sebastien could experience more wins.
Sebastien soon entered other races, winning four 1300s and doing very well in two 1600s. His accomplishments were highly acclaimed by almost everyone that Sebastien was named as the “Most Promising Driver of the Year” by the famous racing magazine “Echappement”.
Prior to the end of the season, Sebastien met Daniel Elena; the two immediately built a friendly relationship, and Daniel soon became Sebastien’s pick for the co-pilot seat. In 1998, Sebastien entered the Saxo Kit Car Cup, winning most or all of the events for the entire season. However, this was not without a price, as the Ambition Sport Auto was left in a difficult situation due to having to replace two cars that were destroyed during the practice. Eventually, in 1999, Sebastien won the Saxo Kit Car Cup, impressing everyone who watched the race.
His championship caught the attention of the Federation Francaise de Sports Automobiles, who included Sebastien in the French rally team. Due to this, Sebastien learned more about the World Rally Championships, and further practiced in order to be able to compete in the world-renowned race. During the season, Sebastien lost his chance in the Rallye Catalunya; in spite of this disappointment, Sebastien kept his head in the game, enabling him to win the next two races – the Rallye de France and the Rallye San Remo.
The following year, in 2000, Sebastien was sponsored to join the French Gravel Championship in spite of his team having a bit of a struggle in the finances. Ambition Sport Auto’s faith in Sebastien did not disappoint, and Sebastien went on to win the 2 driving-wheel race.
Aside from the win, Sebastien’s spectacular driving also grabbed the attention of Guy Frequelin, a veteran rally sports car driver, who took interest in mentoring the young Sebastien. Sebastien won the next events and got two more rally sponsors for his cause: Jean-Pierre Champeau and Frederic Schmitt. His amazing performance in the events caused Sebastien to be declared the champion in the end of the French Championship.
First WRC Entry
Sebastien made his first entry into the WRC in 2001, when he competed at the Junior World Rally Championship. After a stunning performance in which Sebastien won five out of the six events, he was named as the series’ very first champion. The same year, he also participated in the Rallye San Remo and the Citroen Xsara WRC (Sebastien’s only third world rally), where he surprised everyone by pursuing Gilles Panizzi, a Peugeot specialist and racing veteran.
Eventually, Sebastien lost the race after trying to chase Gilles to the finish; however, instead of dispiriting him for the loss, it actually made Sebastien more interested and fired up in winning. He spent the next few months being trained by Guy Frequelin, becoming better and better everyday.
In 2002, Sebastien finally got a taste of competing in the WRC as a driver (Sebastien had been taking the co-pilot seat for his past races) under the Citroen Total World Rally Team. In spite of only participating in seven events (this was so that the team could get a build-up for their full entry the next year), Sebastien made a wonderful performance. In fact, he started the season by provisionally winning the Monte Carlo Rally, although his win was disputed due to an “illegal tyre change” during the second day of the rally.
While he initially contested the dispute, Sebastien eventually gave way to four-time rally winner Tommi Makinen. This disappointment only further fuelled Sebastien’s desire to make his first win, and during the Rally Deutschland, Sebastien’s performance was so incredible that he edged out veteran driver Richard Burns and became the winner.
Defeating Carlos Sainz and Colin McRae
The 2003 WRC became Sebastien’s very first full season, with him winning three events in Germany, San Remo and Monte Carlo. He was defeated in the Wales event by Petter Soberg, however, losing him that year’s championship by a point (Sebastien’s 71 to Petter’s 72). This defeat did not stop Sebastien’s rise to popularity: the same year, he defeated his fellow team mates Carlos Sainz and Colin McRae, and went on to become the “Champion of Champions” at the Race of Champions, defeating Marcus Gronholm.
Sebastien’s rise to fame was very quick; the following year’s season, he took over the WRC – winning six events and making it to the runner up spot on the other six. Initially described to be a tarmac specialist (on which he won the Monte Carlo and Germany Rallies), Sebastien became widely known as an all-around race car driver when he won events that were held in various roads such as the Swedish Rally (making Sebastien the first ever non-Nordic person to win the snow-based rally), the Rally of Turkey and Rally Australia. For the first time in his career, he took the top spot and became the WRC Champion of the Year, outdoing Petter Soberg by thirty six points.
In 2005, Sebastien surprised the entire WRC world by winning six consecutive rallies – being the first person to have ever done so. From the season-opener of the Rallye Automobile Monte Carlo to the Argentina Rally, Sebastien dominated the tracks, also becoming the very first person to have won seven rallies in a season.
During the Wales Rally Great Britain, despite being in the lead, Sebastien purposefully subjected himself to a two-minute penalty drop in order to prevent himself from taking the top spot that year in honor to the death of Michael Park, who died during an accident on stage 15. In spite of this, Sebastien still took the championship title on the next rally held in Japan by landing the second spot on the race, second to Marcus Gronholm.
Eventually, he extended his record by winning the WRC title with a fifty-six point difference – making him the first person to have won with such a huge margin. The only other person to win with that score margin was Walter Rohrl, who was even two points short for his fifty-four score margin. Sebastien also went on to set various records, and became the first person to win all stages of a WRC rally during the Tour de Corse in France. He also claimed his second championship title at the Race of Champions by defeating Tom Kristensen.
Sebastien’s sponsor, Citroen, went on hiatus in 2006 with the intention of returning the following year with the C4 WRC, a better car model. While being guaranteed a lead position in the team’s comeback, Sebastien was allowed to race with the Citroen-sponsored Kronos Total Citroen World Rally Team.
Winning the WRC Championship Title In Spite of Accident
Despite being initially beaten twice for the first time at the Monte Carlo and Swedish rallies by his opponent Marcus Gronholm, Sebastien broke ranks and took the lead in the following rallies in Mexico, Japan and Cyprus, giving Sebastien a huge lead to win the championship title once more.
Sebastien did suffer a major setback that year, when he fell into an accident while mountain biking in Switzerland (thereby missing the rallies in Turkey and Australia), but it never kept Sebastien from winning the championship title. Through video streaming, Sebastien learned that he won the WRC championship title; since it was morning that time, he was sipping coffee instead of drinking champagne. He called the entire experience of that winning “strange”.
In 2007, Sebastien came back with the Citroen team and drove the more advanced Citroen C4 WRC. While initially winning the Monte Carlo and landing second in the Swedish rallies, he did suffer some miscalculations and setbacks in the following and first ever Rally Norway, dropping him to third in the championship rankings.
However, he made a comeback during the rally in Mexico, winning the race by 55 seconds ahead of Marcus Gronholm. Two more victories in the Argentinian and Portuguese gave Sebastien an advantage, until the Rally d’Italia in Sardinia and the Acropolis Rally, where Sebastien made a couple of errors and lost nine points in the championship during the summer break.
Sebastien and Marcus fought closely for the championship in the following rallies in New Zealand, Spain, France and Japan. Eventually, due to the number of mistakes that Marcus made, especially during the 1st Rally Ireland, Sebastien took the lead and won the WRC Championship for the fourth time in a row.
During the summer break, Sebastien joined the Shell Donegal Rally, where he was pitted against the veteran racer Mark Higgins. Although initially outgained by Higgins, Sebastien went onwards and claimed the victory over the more experienced veteran driver.
The 2008 WRC season saw a string of victories for Sebastien, starting with his fifth victory in a row for the Monte Carlo rally. He did get crashed on the first day of the Swedish rally as well as on the Jordanian rally, forcing Citroen to pull him out of both rallies due to his car’s damaged engine. In spite of these setbacks, Sebastien continued to aim for the championship, taking the lead in the rallies in Mexico, Argentina, Turkey, Finland (where he became the fourth non-Nordic person to ever win the rally), Germany, New Zealand and Spain.
Landing on the third spot in the Japan rally, Sebastien took the WRC championship home for the fifth time, becoming the first person in the history of the WRC to have ever done so. It was also in this year that he won his first Wales Rally GB, winning the Citroen team the very first manufacturer’s title. In the same year’s Race of Champions, Sebastien became the second person to win the Champion of Champions title more than two times, the first being his compatriot Auriol.
In the 2009 WRC season, Sebastien continued his reign as the WRC champion, albeit fighting a fierce competition against his rival Mikko Hirvonen. While he won the Rally Ireland without breaking a sweat, Sebastien did have a tough time securing the top spot in the following rallies, often switching places with Hirvonen due to a close battle between the two.
Sebastien almost lost to Hirvonen due to his crashes in the Acropolis and Poland rallies, trailing his opponent by one point. However, by winning the Rally GB (in which Sebastien partly secured the victory due to a spectacular performance at the SS8 and SS9), Sebastien was able to secure his position in the top spot and win the championship for the sixth time in a row.
In the 2010 WRC season’s first event, Sebastien landed the second place at the Swedish Rally. This initial disappointment did not last for long, with Sebastien winning the next three rallies in Mexico, Jordan and Turkey.
He finished third in the New Zealand rally, where the top five finishers went twenty six seconds ahead each other. During the Portugal rally, Sebastien fought a close battle with newcomer Sebastien Ogier, and eventually lost, giving his fellow countryman his first championship in the WRC.
The next rallies in Bulgaria, Finland, Germany (where Sebastien became the first person to ever win the Rallye Deutschland for eight times in a row), Japan and finally his home country France, saw a string of victories for Sebastien, making him the only person to have won the WRC championship title seven times in a row. In that year’s Race of Champions, Sebastien narrowly lost the championship to Filipe Albuquerque.
In 2011, Sebastien drove the new Citroen DS3 WRC in the rallies for the WRC season. Although a bit disappointed at the result of the opening rally (Sebastien finished sixth at the Swedish rally), Sebastien made a comeback by winning or landing top spots at the next rallies in Mexico (becoming the first person to win the rally five times in a row), Portugal, Jordan and Italy.
In the Argentine rally, Sebastien finished first after fighting a fierce three-way-battle against Hirvonen and Ogier. However, the following rallies in Greece, Finland and Germany saw Sebastien trailing Ogier, making it the first time for Sebastien to be defeated in a tarmac rally since 2006. Due to this, a tension in the Citroen team grew, and several commentators called the rivalry “the war between the two Sebs.”
The next rallies in Australia, France and Catalunya helped Sebastien to make it next to the then winning Hirvonen. During the season-ending Rally GB, Sebastien and Hirvonen fought fiercely, switching places on the various stages, with Sebastien dangerously trailing behind.
However, a misfortune befell Hirvonen during the seventh stage (his radiator broke and the engine could not be restarted), making Sebastien the winner and giving him his eighth WRC championship. This moved Sebastien to the top place, outdoing even the seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher in terms of championships won (in major motorsports).
The 2012 WRC season continued to witness Sebastien’s career to grow further, with him winning several rallies in Monte Carlo, Mexico, Greece, New Zealand, Finland and Germany. He did encounter several setbacks along the way, crashing or pulling out of the competitions due to misfortunate events such as being stuck on a snow bank on the Swedish Rally and crashing on the Portuguese Rally. Finally, during the Wales Rally GB, Sebastien finished second to Finn, thus claiming the WRC championship for the ninth time.
Winning Gold at the X Games
In September of that year, Sebastien announced that he would be retiring from racing full-time, and that he would only compete in selected events during the next year’s season. Prior to this, he made his debut at the X Games in the United States in July, winning the gold medal against veteran X Games racer Ken Block.
Sebastien’s performance has earned him numerous awards and prizes, and has given him the respect of many of the world’s most revered sports commentators. In fact, Sebastien was named as the “best rally driver of all time and a shining light in motorsport” by Auto Bild magazine for having the most number of championship titles.
Like his racing career, Sebastien’s personal life has also grown successfully. His wife, Severine Loeb, is also an avid fan of the sport and often replaces Daniel Elena (Sebastien’s co-pilot) at the co-pilot seat for non-championship races. Severine and Sebastien have a daughter which they named Valentine.
Aside from his racing career, Sebastien has also engaged in a few philanthropic activities such as being a member of the famous “Champions for Peace” club, which is a team of fifty-four renowned elite athletes that are committed to promoting peace through their sports activities.
Currently, Sebastien has again proven his finesse in driving by winning the Monte Carlo rally. He will also compete in three other rallies this year – in Sweden, Argentina and France. He will no longer compete fully in the WRC season for 2013.
Organizations and Programmes Supported
- Champions for Peace Club
- Peace and Sport
Awards and Achievements
- 1997: Named as the Most Promising Driver by Echappement Magazine
- 1999: Became the Citroen Saxo kit-car Circuit Champion
- 2002: Won 1st Place at the 21. ADAC Rallye Deutschland
- 2003: Won 1st Place at the 71ème Rallye Automobile de Monte-Carlo
- 2003: Won 1st Place at the 22. ADAC Rallye Deutschland
- 2003: Won 1st Place at the 45º Rallye Sanremo – Rallye d’Italia
- 2003: Won the Henri Toivonen Memorial Trophy at the Race of Champions
- 2004: Won 1st Place at the 72ème Rallye Automobile de Monte-Carlo
- 2004: Won 1st Place at the 53rd Uddeholm Swedish Rally
- 2004: Won 1st Place at the 32nd Cyprus Rally
- 2004: Won 1st Place at the 5th Rally of Turkey
- 2004: Won 1st Place at the 23. OMV ADAC Rallye Deutschland
- 2004: Won 1st Place at the 17th Telstra Rally Australia
- 2004: Became the WRC World Champion of the Year
- 2004: Won the Nation’s Cup for France
- 2004: Won the Champion of Champions at the Race of Champions
- 2005: Won 1st Place at the 73ème Rallye Automobile Monte-Carlo
- 2005: Won 1st Place at the 35th Propecia Rally New Zealand
- 2005: Won 1st Place at the 2º Supermag Rally Italia Sardinia
- 2005: Won 1st Place at the 33rd Cyprus Rally
- 2005: Won 1st Place at the 6th Rally of Turkey
- 2005: Won 1st Place at the 52nd Acropolis Rally
- 2005: Won 1st Place at the 25º Rally Argentina
- 2005: Won 1st Place at the 24. OMV ADAC Rallye Deutschland
- 2005: Won 1st Place at the 49ème Tour de Corse – Rallye de France
- 2005: Won 1st Place at the 41º Rally RACC Catalunya – Costa Daurada
- 2005: Became the WRC World Champion of the Year
- 2005: Won the Henri Toivonen Memorial Trophy at the Race of Champions
- 2006: Won 1st Place at the 20º Corona Rally México
- 2006: Won 1st Place at the 42º Rally RACC Catalunya – Costa Daurada
- 2006: Won 1st Place at the 50ème Tour de Corse – Rallye de France
- 2006: Won 1st Place at the 26º Rally Argentina
- 2006: Won 1st Place at the 3º Supermag Rally Italia Sardinia
- 2006: Won 1st Place at the 25. OMV ADAC Rallye Deutschland
- 2006: Won 1st Place at the 3rd Rally Japan
- 2006: Won 1st Place at the 34th Cyprus Rally
- 2006: Became the WRC World Champion of the Year
- 2007: Won 1st Place at the 75ème Rallye Automobile de Monte-Carlo
- 2007: Won 1st Place at the 21º Corona Rally México
- 2007: Won 1st Place at the 41º Vodafone Rally de Portugal
- 2007: Won 1st Place at the 27º Rally Argentina
- 2007: Won 1st Place at the 26. ADAC Rallye Deutschland
- 2007: Won 1st Place at the 43º Rally RACC Catalunya – Costa Daurada
- 2007: Won 1st Place at the 51ème Tour de Corse – Rallye de France
- 2007: Won 1st Place at the 1st Rally Ireland
- 2007: Became the WRC World Champion of the Year
- 2007: Named the French Sportsman of the Year
- 2008: Won 1st Place at the 76ème Rallye Automobile de Monte-Carlo
- 2008: Won 1st Place at the 22º Corona Rally México
- 2008: Won 1st Place at the 28º Rally Argentina
- 2008: Won 1st Place at the 5º Supermag Rally Italia Sardinia
- 2008: Won 1st Place at the 55th BP Ultimate Acropolis Rally
- 2008: Won 1st Place at the 58th Neste Oil Rally Finland
- 2008: Won 1st Place at the 27. ADAC Rallye Deutschland
- 2008: Won 1st Place at the 38th Repco Rally New Zealand
- 2008: Won 1st Place at the 44º Rally RACC Catalunya – Costa Daurada
- 2008: Won 1st Place at the 52ème Tour de Corse – Rallye de France
- 2008: Won 1st Place at the 64th Wales Rally of Great Britain
- 2008: Won the Henri Toivonen Memorial Trophy at the Race of Champions
- 2009: Won 1st Place at the 2nd Rally Ireland
- 2009: Won 1st Place at the 3rd Rally Norway
- 2009: Won 1st Place at the 37th Cyprus Rally
- 2009: Won 1st Place at the 43º Vodafone Rally de Portugal
- 2009: Won 1st Place at the 29º Rally Argentina
- 2009: Won 1st Place at the 45º Rally RACC Catalunya – Costa Daurada
- 2009: Won 1st Place at the 65th Wales Rally of Great Britain
- 2009: Became the WRC World Champion of the Year
- 2009: Named the French Sportsman of the Year
- 2009: Conferred the title of Knight of the Legion of Honour
- 2010: Won 1st Place at the 23º Corona Rally México
- 2010: Won 1st Place at the 28th Jordan Rally
- 2010: Won 1st Place at the 2010 Rally of Turkey
- 2010: Won 1st Place at the 2010 Rally Bulgaria
- 2010: Won 1st Place at the 28. ADAC Rallye Deutschland
- 2010: Won 1st Place at the 2010 Rallye de France
- 2010: Won 1st Place at the 46º Rally RACC Catalunya – Costa Daurada
- 2010: Won 1st Place at the 66th Wales Rally of Great Britain
- 2011: Won 1st Place at the 24° Corona Rally México
- 2011: Won 1st Place at the 8° Rally d'Italia Sardegna
- 2011: Won 1st Place at the 31º Rally Argentina
- 2011: Won 1st Place at the 61st Rally Finland
- 2011: Won 1st Place at the 47º RACC Rally de España
- 2012: Won 1st Place at the 80ème Rallye Automobile de Monte-Carlo
- 2012: Won 1st Place at the 25° Guanajuato Rally México
- 2012: Won 1st Place at the 32nd Philips Rally Argentina
- 2012: Won 1st Place at the 58th Acropolis Rally
- 2012: Won 1st Place at the 42nd Brother Rally New Zealand
- 2012: Won 1st Place at the 62nd Neste Oil Rally Finland
- 2012: Won 1st Place at the 30. ADAC Rallye Deutschland
- 2012: Won 1st Place at the 2012 Rallye de France
- 2012: Won 1st Place at the 48º RACC Rally de España
- 2013: Won 1st Place at the 81ème Rallye Automobile de Monte-Carlo