Former WRC great and Pikes Peak record holder Sebastien Loeb has raced for Peugeot at the Dakar Rally since 2016. After crashing out in his initial attempt and having mechanical problems in this year's event, Loeb hasn't fared as well as he and the team had hoped on the long distance desert stages.
In a recent interview with Motorsport.com, Loeb explained that next year's race will be make or break for the team. He noted that it could be his final shot at a victory, therefore hinting that Peugeot could be dropping its Dakar program after 2018.
"It will be important [to win Dakar next season] because I think it’s the last one. Maybe Peugeot will continue, but I don’t think so," Loeb explained. "We start to have a bit more experience now, and it would be great to be able to win."
The Frenchman admitted that Dakar is simply too difficult to predict as the sheer length of the event is enough to make anyone doubtful. That, paired with the harsh terrain and major driver fatigue, make it a tough task. However, Loeb feels that the team has everything sorted to win next year, so if luck falls in their favor, then Peugeot could end on a high note.
"Okay, we know we have the speed, but in Dakar it’s not only the speed. You can lose a lot in the navigation or with [mechanical] problems like we had last year. We have everything to be able to win now, but it’s not easy to do it."
The likely departure could perhaps be credited to the success of Loeb's fellow Peugeot driver, Stephane Peterhansel. The 52-year-old rally racer, also from France, has won the event for the Parisian team twice in two years, and a record 13 times in his career. This could be enough to satisfy Peugeot's hunger for success in Dakar, meaning that Loeb could only have one more attempt at a win of his own.
With the French marque's Dakar program potentially being dropped soon as well as its looming WRX exit, Loeb could soon turn to a WRC return. He has performed various tests for the Citroen team as of late, and he did mention that he could race "a rally or two" next year for the team. If the cards fall into place, we could be looking at a World Rally Championship return from Loeb as soon as 2019.