Nine-time World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb has retired from the 2021 Dakar Rally after failing to make it to the finish in Monday’s eighth stage.
Competing in the 375km Sakaka and Neom loop that formed the second part of the marathon stage, Loeb suffered two punctures in the first 80km when he had only one spare tyre on his Prodrive-built BRX1 contender.
After being stranded for over five hours in the middle of the stage, Loeb and co-driver Daniel Elena made the decision to return to the bivouac by road, marking an end to their 2021 Dakar campaign.
The Bahrain Raid Xtreme team’s official truck – the #532 MAN machine driven by Jordi Esteve, Rafa Tibau and Arnald Bastida – had broken down at the 316km mark in Sunday’s Stage 7 – and was thus unavailable to assist Loeb.
Loeb has been hit by a series of problems in his fifth attempt at Dakar and was sitting 43rd overall heading into Stage 8, over 13 hours down on leader Stephane Peterhansel of X-raid Mini.
The Frenchman’s first major setback came in the fifth stage when he suffered several punctures and got lost in the Saudi Arabia desert, leaving him almost an hour down on the leaders.
A broken suspension arm followed in Stage 6, with any hopes of a quick fix ending when the truck arrived with the incorrect replacement part – two right suspension arms instead of one right and one left.
It forced Loeb to wait a total of eight hours until the correct replacement part was delivered – with the actual repair only taking 20 minutes.
Having already dropped out of the reckoning and admitted he was focused on development work to assist team-mate Nani Roma, he suffered more mechanical pain in Sunday’s Stage 7 with a damaged bearing and conceded a further two hours in total upon reaching the end of the stage.
The WRC legend was also the centre of a dispute with organiser ACO after he was handed a five-minute penalty for speeding in a slow zone, labelling the event stewards “incompetent”.
The ACO later responded to Loeb’s remarks, saying he exceeded the speed limit by 77km/h and that he “does not pay attention to his co-driver’s instructions”.
Loeb, who returned to Dakar in 2021 after a one-year hiatus, is still chasing a first win in the prestigious rally-raid.
X-raid Mini driver Stephane Peterhansel currently leads the rally from stage eight winner Nasser Al-Attiyah (Toyota). BRX driver Roma sits fifth overall with four stages to run.