Motorsport: Lunacy looms for legend Loeb

Sebastien Loeb will take the wheel  in a monster-spec version of his Citroen DS3. Photo / Supplied
Sebastien Loeb will take the wheel in a monster-spec version of his Citroen DS3. Photo / Supplied

Fresh from Rally NZ, French star heads to X Games in the US

You'd think a week of fanging around New Zealand's challenging rally roads at breakneck speed would be enough for eight-time world champion Sebastien Loeb.

But after Rally New Zealand, Loeb's heading to X Games Los Angeles where he'll take on drivers from the Global Rallycross Championship in a monster-spec version of his Citroen DS3.

The fire-breathing DS3 'XL' will be dressed in Red Bull and Total livery when the Frenchman stretches his legs in the hard-fought rallycross event against drivers like old rival Marcus Gronholm.

Despite looking very similar to the Citroen Racing WRC car that he'll run in the rally, the freshly-minted XL is a highly-modified version with 407kW on tap.

What started as a clever plan by Red Bull to get Loeb into the high-rating X Games against extreme athlete Travis Pastrana quickly turned into a hardcore engineering exercise, and the champion seems genuinely excited at the prospect of racing his new "XL" in the adrenaline-fuelled format.

"I love racing and I'm always interested in trying out new categories," said Loeb.

"A week after the New Zealand Rally has finished, I'll be in Los Angeles to take up the challenge set for me by Travis (Pastrana).

"Rallycross here in Europe provides some very spectacular racing, but the American version seems to be even more extreme. So, I didn't need to be asked twice when the opportunity arose to race against drivers like Marcus Gronholm in a 407 kW Citroen DS3!

"It's always exciting to try out a new category and attempt to get the most out of the regulations," confirmed Cyrille Jourdan, lead engineer for the project at Citroen Racing.

"From a distance, the Rallycross DS3 looks quite similar to the WRC. Although the design of the chassis and suspension systems are fairly similar, the powertrain is fundamentally different. The DS3 XL's two-litre turbo engine develops 407 kW and 800Nm of torque. Its acceleration isn't far off that of an F1 car, covering 0 to 100km/h in 2.4 seconds."

With no co-driver or spares package on board, weight distribution had to be carefully re-engineered.

"That's why the water radiator has been moved into the boot," said Jourdan. "The main visual difference between the WRC and the XL is the addition of cooling vents in the rear wings."

The Citroen DS3 XL was put through its paces by Loeb at the Dreux racetrack. "With four-wheel drive and the extra power, this DS3 really does go at some speed," said Loeb.

"We used these test sessions to try out a few different set-up options. However, we know that the American racetracks are very different and we'll therefore have to adapt the car to the conditions there very quickly."

The rallycross section of X Games takes place on the Gilbert Lindsay Plaza, right next to the Staple Center, which hosts the other X Games events between June 28 and July 2.

- NZ Herald

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