In an interview published in British-based motorsport magazine Autosport, the multiple rally world champion Sebastien Loeb has cast doubt on whether he will continue in the sport when the category introduces Super 2000 regulations, culminating in a complete switchover by 2011.
The five-time world champion, who also heads the 2009 standings after wins in both of the opening events, is quoted as having some damning opinions of the new regulations.
"I have a good idea of the speed [of S2000 cars], and the times are quite slow."
"The dream for the spectators won't be the same. When they are standing and watching a car thinking "maybe my own car is faster than this one," the excitement will not be the same as it is with the World Rally Car."
The S2000 rules are being introduced partially in the hope of boosting the flagging WRC and is part of the cost-cutting measures that many racing series are introducing to combat the economic downturn, especially that affect car sales.
However, Loeb is skeptical as to whether the purely economic benefits are worth the loss of the current specification. He said "I know it's important that we make some savings with the costs, but I don't think the turbo is expensive."
The turbo is the only major loss to the series should it switch to S2000 regulation (four wheel drive is allowed in S2000 rally cars, the only difference between them and the better known Touring Cars).
However, it seems Loeb is still to be convinced of the merits of the new rules.
Many have commented that Loeb could leave the WRC as soon as the end of this year, when his current contract with Citroen ends.
But what would he do next?
Loeb seems to be more than interested in the world of sportscars. He already has a second place in the Le Mans 24 hours to his name, when he completed the 2006 with Pescarolo Sport.
He already has a deal to test Peugeot's diesel 908 sportscar (Citroen and Peugeot are basically the same company) and is due to complete the test "some time this season," he claims.
At first, it may appear this could in preparation to return to Le Mans with Pescarolo, who have entered a customer 908 in this year's race.
It would make sense, it keeps Loeb in the Peugeot-Citroen family and reunites him with Henri Pescarolo, and Loeb satisfies his main driver criteria, by being French.
However, hold the various racing calendars side by side, and you will see that this year's Acropolis Rally clashes directly with this year's La Sarthe race on the 12-14 June weekend, and Loeb would not miss a round of the WRC to compete, would he (would he?)
This makes it look like a long-term plan to move to sportscars with Peugeot, and the fact he is testing this year seems to suggest that any move is coming sooner rather than later.
Source and Quotes: Autosport, March 5