There are burning issues within World Rally Championship, no doubt. From (still) missing global promotion and TV coverage to less annoying, but equally exciting issues of driver transfers and the arrival of new teams. And there is also this constant, called Sebastien Loeb. He is also fairly popular subject this year – partly because he is once again handing everyone their asses on a silver platter, and partly because he is big part of the puzzle for next year’s starting “grid”.
It’s become popular these days, or rather these years, to discuss and predict the exact time of Loeb’s retirement. After all, he all but conquered the sport in last decade or so, and managed to destroy the opposition on regular basis year after year. Sure, he’s not some godly uberhuman and he also makes mistakes, not to mention victories he scored thanks to team-play and quite possibly few not so legal moves, but even with all that taken into account, he is still few steps ahead of his rivals on most stages and on most rallies. And that’s how you win rallies and titles.
It’s hard to say how he does what he does – some say it’s talent, some say it’s superb discipline, but it’s probably that unique, fine combination of skill, talent and advanced understanding of his own abilities combined with physics of the car behaviour in every given situation and in every coming corner. Of course, sometimes that corner goes to right, and you make a left turn, but…
We could simply say he is just that good – just one effin’ good and complete driver. Sure, we had fast ones in the past, we still have them, consistent ones too, but this guy combines the two treats and delivers. Big time.
So, what’s with constant discussion about his retirement? Yeah, it’s an interesting subject. Heck, even this post is doing just that very thing – discussing his retirement. But I’d just like to understand what is the reason behind constant calls for Mr. Loeb to hang his helmet and call it a day. I’m not saying it’s wrong to talk about it, or to discuss the implications of his retirement on the championship. It’s the ones that claim he should retire “in order for sport to progress and prosper” that bug me.
I have trouble understanding how is it Loeb’s fault that sport is not “progressing” or “prospering”, and how would his retirement benefit the sport. Should we blame Sebastien for 30 cars entry for Rally GB this year, or the blunders that were BMW/MINI/Prodrive and now Armindo Araujo/Chris Atkinson, or ups and downs with TV broadcasting, to name a few? There are people out there who claim WRC is boring with Loeb around, and while good part of them are joking, some are not. I can see their reasons. Take out Loeb, and we have line of drivers all very capable of making very costly and often unforced errors and mistakes, losing points, victories, titles… and voila, you have an exciting championship. It’s sort of like DRS button for the WRC – in Formula 1 that thing brought back overtaking, and with Loeb out of the WRC, we would finally have an interesting championship. Because everyone else makes mistakes more often than Loeb, thus creating the tensions and excitement, much to everyone’s delight. Right? Well, wrong.
Rally should be about beating the time and your opponents with pure skill, touch of tactics, team work and then some self discipline. And if Loeb mastered all this better then his rivals, then that’s not his problem, nor it is detrimental for the championship. On the contrary, Loeb is so huge that WRC should in fact be fucking happy to have him around. It cannot be his fault others simply cannot find proper formula to beat him on regular basis, and it’s pathetic to suggest otherwise. He is not the one making the rules nor running the championship, we cannot blame him for only handfull of teams and lack of spots for talented young drivers, “future Loebs”. So we’re left with current grid and teams, all of which are just-not-good-enough to beat him. Period.
So, Mr. Loeb. Please, remain in the World Rally Championship for as long as you like and keep doing what you do so good for years to come. Because if you retire now, we will know it was just because Sebastien Ogier was coming back to WRC competition with Volkswagen next year. Allegedly, you’re afraid of Mr. Ogier, when you shouldn’t be. Wouldn’t it be just great to have a 2013 season of superb fights between two teams and two drivers, and after such season it would be awesome to call it a day, regardless of the outcome. Sort of like passing a torch. Stick around for another year, will ya?