Seven-time World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb is launching his own sportscar team, with entries in the Le Mans Series and France's Porsche Cup planned for 2012, and says the project will be his post-rallying future.
The rallying legend has long hinted that he would consider a career in circuit racing when he retires from the WRC, having already twice raced in the Le Mans 24 Hours and other smaller events. Loeb recently committed to two more seasons in the WRC with Citroen.
Sebastien Loeb Racing will be a partnership with Loeb's friend Dominique Heintz, and will run two cars in France's Porsche Matmut Carrera Cup and a single car in the one-make prototype FLM class of the LMS.
Loeb said he saw the sportscar team as the focus of his post-WRC career.
"I've had a few experiences on circuits, in different disciplines, and I liked those experiences as well as the atmosphere around them," said Loeb.
"Rallying represents a large part of my life and it's something I still enjoy, which is why I'm continuing in the sport. But in the coming years, when I'll have more time available, I want to discover a new universe."
Heintz added that by starting SLR while he was still competing in the WRC, Loeb was giving the team time to establish itself before becoming fully involved.
"Sebastien felt ready: he has clarified his future as a driver," said Heintz. "It's the right time: after these next two years in rallying, he'll have the opportunity to get even more involved in the team which will have already gone through its growing pains.
"It's not an idea that we came up with yesterday. We've been talking about it for a while now. We just had to let time do its thing."
A Le Mans 24 Hours programme is SLR's longer-term aim, with Heintz hinting at a goal of an LMP2 entry in the race by 2014.
Loeb said that sportscar racing's current momentum made this an exciting time to become involved in the category.
"Endurance racing is an attractive discipline," said Loeb. "The World Endurance Championship will be launched in 2012, with three officially entered constructors. The 24 Hours of Le Mans is a legendary race and we hope to one day be on the grid as a racing team. To accomplish this, we must put together a cohesive project and take it step by step.
"This isn't a one-shot deal. We want to build a serious and professional team, which will be there for the long haul. It's a real challenge: we can't underestimate the size of it. But that's also what's good about it. I'm going to discover new aspects, aspects that will represent my future, and which will allow me to stay in racing and therefore keep living my passion."
The team is also considering entering the single-make Peugeot RCZ Cup and is keeping the door open to using its Porsche Cup car in other series.
"We will be running two cars in France, but it's also accepted in Porsche Supercup and even in the Le Mans Series, in the GTC class," said Loeb. "Therefore, another programme could come online as a complement."