In the midst of a hard-fought battle with Jari-Matti Latvala in a Ford Fiesta RS, Loeb and Elena were on their way back to the paddock when they collided over a blind crest with another car. The Citroën DS3 WRC was damaged virtually beyond repair, but the position in which they retired was still good enough to clinch a record eighth drivers' title in World Rally Championship to join the manufacturers' title claimed for the team last month.
The Citroën mechanics managed to piece the car back together enough to pose for some photos, which you can see in the high-res image gallery. But even if it wasn't the ideal picture-perfect finish for the undisputed dominant force in rallying, it still didn't stop Loeb from celebrating his place as the most accomplished driver in all of motorsport.
Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena became eight-time FIA World Rally Champions* over the weekend at Wales Rally GB.
The Citroën Total World Rally Team crew clinched the title, despite having to retire on the final day of the rally. Their DS3 WRC was involved in a collision with a car, travelling in the opposite direction, on a liaison section of the event. No one was injured, but the damage forced Loeb to retire, ending his thrilling duel for the rally win with Jari-Matti Latvala.
"It's a pity because I would have liked to have finished the battle with Jari-Matti. We were on a narrow road and we came upon a car on the top of a crest where there was no visibility. The Spanish driver had the wrong reflex and pulled in to the right and we collided," explained Sébastien Loeb. "The radiator was damaged and we were out on the spot. It's proof that a rally isn't over until you're back in the parc fermé!"
After recovering the car, the technical team did everything necessary to make it presentable for the podium at Cardiff castle. "We won't let this incident spoil the party," said Frédéric Banzet, the Citroën General Manager. "Sébastien, Daniel and Citroën Racing have achieved a remarkable season. Ten victories in thirteen rallies, the manufacturers' and drivers' titles, new records set: the whole team has more than fulfilled the expectations of the make. From Sweden to Great Britain, the WRC has helped us to showcase our Créative Technologie on four continents. These victories and these titles have helped embed rallying a little deeper in Citroën's genes!"
"So far we haven't really had time to celebrate this title as we were completely involved in the rally. Again this morning we had to get up at 04:30 to go and tackle the stages," added Loeb. "Now we can celebrate it at last with the whole team. All the titles are important and memorable as they're never put together in the same way. This season, the overall level was very high and we had to fight right down till the last rally. I'm proud to have become the most-titled racing driver, even if one shouldn't really try and compare the different branches of the sport. I never thought I'd achieve this when I started my career!"
Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, in the sister DS3 WRC, finished the event in 11th place after taking three stage wins on the final day. They had rejoined the event in 73rd position on day two, under super rally regulations, following a shunt on the opening stages. They battled through to finish just outside the top 10. Taking three points on the power stage also secured the crew third place in the overall championship standings.
"Going through each stage twice has helped us to understand the difficulties of this rally a bit better. It'll be useful to us next time we race here. We're trying to go quick enough to validate our notes and enjoy ourselves at the same time. I'd like to congratulate Sébastien and Daniel on their titles. Once again, they've proved they're simply the best and that really deserves respect."
* Subject to official publication of the results by the FIA.