Photo: Citroën Racing

WTCC boss shocked by Sébastien Loeb’s departure

Head of Eurosport Events Francois Ribeiro, promoter of the WTCC, said he was very sad when he learned that Sébastien Loeb would be leaving the championship at the conclusion of the 2015 season, but Citroën team principal Yves Matton explains that it was never a certainty that the World Rally star would be there for the life of the French manufacturer’s programme.

Ribeiro admitted his disappointment at the decision of Citroën to drop Loeb from their line-up for next season, saying he was more surprised to learn of this than their decision to dedicate themselves to the World Rally Championship from 2017.

“Sebastien said he was surprised, disappointed, and I would add I’m sad, really sad,” said Ribeiro to TouringCarTimes. “I was not expecting this decision. Their decision to go back to rallying was more expected to me, but their decision about Sébasiten was not something I expected.

“I’ve known Sébastien since 1986 when I was working with the French motorsport federation, and when he gave me a phone call to tell me it’s over, I knew from his voice he was very disappointed.

“He wanted to see how far he can go on his learning curve to challenge (José María) López…and in his mind he was programmed for three years, and it is sad to see what he will not be given the chance to go for that third year. Unfortunately it’s not his decision, it’s not my decision and unfortunately there’s nothing I can do to help.”

Citroën team principal Yves Matton explained that the breakdown in relationship between Citroën and Loeb developed when Loeb learned he didn’t have a guaranteed spot at the team, and with complications developing as Loeb began to become more involved with sister brand Peugeot’s cross-country programmes.

“I think his surprise came from the fact that we said we’d be (in the WTCC) for three years and he thought that he’d be there for three years,” said Matton. “But as (PSA Peugeot Citroën chairman) Carlos Tavares said, Sébastien is a PSA ambassador and the most important thing is to keep him inside the group, and after that, it’s hard to be part of one brand and another brand at the same time and after that he made its choice and Citroen made its choices.”

“(In 2016) Sébastien will be driving for Peugeot, so it makes things different. Sébastien was not interested to be a World Rally driver in 2017 on a full-time basis for sure with Citroën, so then the choice was made for him to drive for Peugeot (in the Cross-Country World Rally Cup) and that makes it more difficult to drive for Citroën.”