Sébastien Loeb struck gold on his first ever visit to the USA, winning the Rallycross event organised as part of the X Games Los Angeles 2012. After clear wins in his heat and the final in his Citroën DS3 XL, it only took the eight-time World Rally Champion a day to make a name for himself on the other side of the Atlantic!
A few days after winning Rally New Zealand, Sébastien Loeb headed for California to take part in the X Games Los Angeles. Competing in his 545hp Citroën DS3 XL, Seb got his first glimpse of the city-centre circuit designed for the event. Surrounded by concrete barriers and with no run-off areas, the venue witnessed some spectacular crashes during free practice. Toomas Heikkinen and Marcus Grönholm were among those who were caught out, ruling them out of the race.
The competition started on Sunday with three qualifying heats designed to determine the starting grid for the final. One of the favourites, Travis Pastrana was shunted into the wall at the first corner. Sébastien Loeb managed to take the lead and win his heat. He set the fastest time overall in the heats, over three seconds ahead of Tanner Foust, the reigning Global Rallycross Champion.
In the space of a few minutes, the Frenchie had gone from being practically unknown in Los Angeles to making a name for himself; suddenly, there were a lot more requests for autographs and photos! However, Loeb still had to convert his strong showing in the heats into victory in the final, which featured ten cars.
After a perfect start, Seb moved to the front and immediately built up a small lead. The race was interrupted, however, on lap two due to collision which blocked the track. Frustration was beginning to show among the drivers, several of whom then jumped the restart. The final was therefore started for the third time and the Citroën driver – calm and collected as ever – rocketed out front for the ‘holeshot’ again. After quickly establishing a lead of a few seconds over Ken Block, Seb could relax at the front when the American was hit by a puncture. He coasted to victory before then picking up his gold medal on the podium!
“It was a great end to the weekend and obviously, I’m really pleased to win the gold medal, but I must admit I’m finding it hard to really enjoy it when my ‘best enemy’ Marcus Grönholm is in hospital after his crash”, said Sébastien. “We were both very much looking forward to racing against each other here and it’s a shame that it didn’t happen. This was my first rallycross race but I quickly realised that the start would be crucial. As I was a little faster than the others in free practice, I knew that if I had got away well at the start, I’d be almost certain of winning. I came here hoping I’d win and that’s exactly what happened!”
“After having shown off the brilliance of Créative Technologie on roads all around the world, Citroën Racing and Sébastien Loeb have won on a new surface and in a new category,” said a visibly pleased Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal. “As everything was new to us, we made sure we were very thorough in our preparations. Once we were there, we discovered a very – sometimes too – relaxed atmosphere, but we managed to avoid the pitfalls to go and grab the win. Congratulations to the team for their hard work, and I’d particularly like to thank Kenneth Hansen for his sound advice as regards strategy.”