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Jean-Marc Gales Q & A: Why Citroen needs Sebastien Loeb

PSA Peugeot Sport member of the management board Jean-Marc Gales talked to AUTOSPORT during the Rallye Deutschland about the importance of Sebastien Loeb's decision to stay at Citroen for another two years.

The seven-time world champion had spent months mulling his future, considering a switch to Volkswagen and even quitting the sport altogether before finally opting to stay with the team that he scored all of his 66 victories with.

Gales described Loeb's decision to stay with Citroen as 'fundamental', adding that he could not have imagined the world rally team without the 37-year-old in it.

Q. How important was it to sign Loeb?

Jean-Marc Gale: It's fundamental to Citroen. Look at what he has done in the last years, seven-time world champion. His relation to Citroen is symbiotic. I always say Sebastien Loeb and Citroen is like Paris and the Eifel Tower - they belong together.

In terms of marketing I am extremely happy he has re-signed again, it does help us sell cars in simple terms. Everybody associates Citroen and the wins we have – the championships – with Sebastien and vice-versa. It is also excellent because we want to reposition our brand. Citroen, as you have seen in the past, was a brand known for its commercial aggressiveness, now we have a premium line – the DS, the DS3, which is a hot seller in Europe, the DS4, the DS5 and all the attributes we associate with this new premium line, they fit with Sebastien as well. I am very happy that he stays.

Q. How did you convince him to stay?

J-M G: I took care of him personally. We have seen each other, as he has confirmed a couple of times in the last weeks, more than that I will not tell you because I will not comment on any contracts – that's not in the line of our business.

Q. Could you imagine him at Volkswagen? How would you have felt?

J-M G: That's not what we would have liked. We did a lot to make him stay, to make that association last longer because it's a great association and it needs to last. He is so connected to the team, it's the team which made him grow and he needs to feel at ease in the future. It's inconceivable for us to let him go to Volkswagen.

Q. He didn't feel at ease in Greece, when he accused the team of favouring Sebastien Ogier?

J-M G: I think every race is different. He has won in Finland with a great performance, he feels better now. You need to deal on a rally-by-rally basis. It was important for us to make him feel comfortable.

Q. Will there be any changes to the team around him next year?

J-M G: I'm not aware of any major changes.

Q. There has been some speculation that Olivier Quesnel might leave at the end of the year. What do you say to that?

J-M G: I don't make any comments on persons or discuss persons during the rally. I think Olivier has done a good job this year.

Q. Do you stop the drivers from fighting on rallies?

J-M G: In every race there is a time to say clearly what you want.

Q. Loeb is further ahead in the championship, is it time to support him?

J-M G: If you have one pilot far ahead in the championship, if you have only a couple of rounds to go... the most important is that the team wins and Citroen gets the title of world champion for manufacturers, we need to secure that and not run any risk of losing two cars in the race and then maybe losing the championship; we just cannot run that risk. Every race is different and you need to decide on a race-by-race basis.

Q. Sebastien signing for another two years shows Citroen's commitment to the WRC…

J-M G: It shows Citroen's commitment to the WRC and it shows the commitment in Citroen headquarters to Citroen Racing, which is very important. We have never talked about that, but the two-year contract with a seven-time world champion shows that commitment.

Q. Would that commitment have been questioned if Loeb had retired?

J-M G: I couldn't have considered Citroen without Loeb, frankly. That's a lot of ifs, I cannot comment. Our objective was to keep Sebastien with the team, not have him go to any other team or to any other race series. He expressed his desire to continue his very successful career and we said: "Wow, let's do it." That's the most important for us.

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