Wrecks Are for Mortals

When Sebastien Loeb rolled on the Dakar Rally, stopping wasn’t an option.

ANDRE LAVADINHO/AFP/Getty Images

I don’t know about you, but I’ve wrecked a couple of cars. Maybe more than a couple. After none of them was my first thought, “I’d better start yanking off pieces of the bodywork so I can drive away.” But I’m not nine-time WRC champion Sebastien Loeb who, with co-driver Daniel Elena, crashed his #314 Team Peugeot-Total 2008 DKR16 diesel truck on January 11.

“I ended up in a river that turned to be quite deep and that at first I didn’t see,” said Loeb. “We dropped into the river and the car was instantly thrown up and we rolled. We broke a lot of things on the car. We had to change two wheels to try and get it going again. We also changed the transmission, so for sure we lost a lot of time.” They also had to patch up the radiator; then discovered a broken shaft when they tried to move. Total downtime: Under 90 minutes.

Loeb has wrecked in World Rally before, so getting going afterwards wasn’t an alien concept, but this is his first Dakar. "In the WRC I have been used to going around obstacles, but with this car you can just drive straight over them and it takes some time to have the confidence to believe it,” he said in September. "I’ve also been used to having very detailed pace notes: in Cross Country, you have to find the road for yourself and improvise your route.” That part, apparently, may take a little more practice.