Despite crashing out of Vodafone Rally de Portugal, Sebastien Loeb had plenty of reason to celebrate on Sunday when his eponymous sportscar team claimed a debut podium finish in the opening round of the European Le Mans Series.
Loeb’s unexpected retirement from round four of the FIA World Rally Championship powered by Nokia meant that he was able to join his team on the pit wall for qualifying and the six-hour race at the French Paul Ricard circuit last weekend.
The team’s driver line-up, consisting of former Peugeot factory Le Mans drivers Stephane Sarrazin and Nicolas Minassian, as well as up-and-coming youngster Nicolas Marroc, finished second overall in the race, having fought at the front throughout.
This was despite the fact that the team had only taken delivery of its Oreca-Nissan LMP2 car a week before the race, and had missed the official pre-season test session.
“It was quite an emotional moment for me: this is the first time that I’ve seen my name on the side of a racing car and not been at the wheel,” said Loeb, who continues to head the WRC standings despite his exit in Portugal. “Our team is on the pace and we’ve got some very experienced drivers. We need to remember that it’s our debut and that we’re all working on the car for the first time. That’s not easy to do during a race weekend.”