Sebastien Loeb gets part-time Citroen World Rally Championship deal

Sebastien Loeb will return to the World Rally Championship in 2018 for a three-round programme with Citroen

Sebastien Loeb gets part-time Citroen World Rally Championship deal

The 43-year-old nine-time champion tested a C3 WRC on asphalt and gravel this year and will make his comeback on Rally Mexico next March before also tackling Corsica and Spain.

"Everyone was pleased after the test sessions done this year - myself first and foremost - and these three appearances were the next logical step," said Loeb.

"The feeling you get in rallying is one of the most thrilling feelings I have ever experienced, and I was excited about driving one of these new WRCs [competitively]. And it's nice to be able to do it in the team with which I have enjoyed so much success."

Citroen is reducing its full-time WRC line-up to two cars, with Kris Meeke contesting all 13 rounds but team-mate Craig Breen sitting out Loeb's three rallies. Khalid Al-Qassimi will drive a third C3 on selected events.

Stephane Lefebvre, Citroen's third driver in 2017, will drop back to WRC2 in the firm's new R5 car.

Loeb's last WRC outing was a one-off on the 2015 Monte Carlo Rally, where he led before damaging a wheel.

"I don't have any expectations, I just want to enjoy myself," he said of his 2018 WRC programme.

"I thought it made sense to take part in the French round, especially since I've always loved racing on Tarmac, although I'm not familiar with the current route of the Tour de Corse. Spain seemed like a good option too.

"I also wanted to contest a gravel rally. We opted for Mexico, since I have good memories of racing there and the route hasn't changed too much since I was last involved in the championship."

Team principal Yves Matton said Loeb "couldn't have returned to the WRC with anyone other than us".

"Seb confirmed he has lost none of his speed and skill during the test sessions, although he is bound to be short of knowledge of the stages and time in the car, compared with the increasingly tough competition," Matton added.

Alongside his WRC appearances, Loeb will also contest the Dakar Rally and World Rallycross Championship with Citroen's sister brand Peugeot.

Citroen won two rallies with Meeke in 2017 as its factory programme resumed but had a difficult season overall and was last in the manufacturers' championship.

"We learned a lot during the first season with the Citroen C3 WRC and we've gathered a lot of information to help us do better in 2018," said Meeke.

"Despite a few tough moments, we managed to show our potential. We won't be taking anything for granted but by working in a relaxed and calm manner, we can achieve good things."

Matton intimated that the focus was on a drivers' title bid for Meeke rather than the manufacturers' championship.

"The aim will be to target podiums and secure some wins, but Kris can also go for position in the championship," he said.

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