Loeb is glacially cool, totally focussed and sublimely quick in all conditions. In his first full year in the WRC in 2003, Loeb almost took the title. In his second season, he easily clinched the crown with a record-matching six wins. In 2006 he secured his third consecutive title without even contesting the last four rounds of the championship after he broke his shoulder falling off a mountain bike.
Now a seven-time champion and having amassed 62 wins at WRC level, Loeb begins the new World Rally Car era in Citroen’s DS3 WRC in 2011 gunning for title number eight and more outright victories.
A talented gymnast, Loeb developed a keen interest in rallying in his late teens. In 1998 he took two wins in the French Citroen Saxo Trophy series before securing the title the following year. Citroen took notice and with the support of the French federation, the FFSA, and benefactor Dominique Heintz it wasn’t long before Loeb was competing on the world stage. He won the Super 1600 Drivers’ Cup - the forerunner to the Junior World Rally Championship - in 2001, and claimed his first overall victory on Rallye Deutschland the following season in a Citroen Xsara WRC.
He quickly became established as an all-round performer with wins on asphalt, gravel and snow. Having chased Petter Solberg for the 2003 crown - losing out on the final round - he went one better in 2004 to become world champion for the first time.
His dominant performance in 2005, when he won 10 events, set a new record for the most wins in a season and marked Loeb out as one of rallying’s all-time greats.
With Citroen taking a sabbatical in 2006 to develop its all-new C4 WRC, Loeb transferred to the privateer Kronos Racing operation, albeit with Citroen’s full backing, and claimed title number three. In the process he beat Carlos Sainz’s record of 26 wins to become the sport’s most successful driver. He would undoubtedly have secured more victories but missed the last four rounds of the season recuperating from injuries sustained in a mountain bike accident.
Reunited with Citroen Sport for 2007 and armed with the make’s C4, Loeb became champion again. A fifth title followed in 2008 when Loeb broke his own record for wins in one season with 11 victories. These included first-place finishes in Finland and Great Britain, the two of the classic events Loeb hadn’t previously cracked.
After claiming five wins from the opening five rounds in 2009, it looked as though Loeb would dominate the title race once again, only to suffer a run of uncharacteristically bad luck. A time penalty in Sardinia was followed by a high-speed roll in Greece before an innocuous looking accident in Poland broke his car’s front subframe. Another time penalty for a technical infringement cost him victory in Australia and he started the penultimate round trailing rival Mikko Hirvonen in the title race after the Finn had secured four-straight wins.
Victory for Loeb in Spain set up a winner-takes-all finale in Wales. Loeb held firm to win the rally - and the title - by a solitary point, the narrowest winning margin since he defeated Marcus Gronholm in 2006.
Loeb’s 2010 campaign netted eight wins out of a possible 13. He described his seventh title-winning season as his most consistent after he achieved a 100 per cent scoring record for the first time.
Despite an aborted attempt to make a shock Formula One debut, starring roles in the Le Mans 24 Hours and occasional appearances in French sportscar events, Loeb remains committed to rallying and starts the era of World Rally Car regulations as one of the title favourites.
Will anybody rival King Loeb in 2012?