The most successful rally driver of all time has delivered one of the most astonishing broadsides in the history of motorsport.
Sebastian Loeb has labelled officials at the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia as “incompetent” after a dispute over a speeding penalty.
“There is no room for incompetence, nor for the incompetent,” the nine-times world rally champion said after being slugged with a five-minute penalty.
Loeb said officials did not want to hear his explanation, that a fault in a GPS system meant there was no warning of the speed limit.
The five-minute penalty they delivered has dropped him from fourth overall to seventh in the Prodrive buggy, funded by the Bahraini sovereign fund, he is sharing with his long-time co-driver Daniel Elena.
Loeb transformed rallying during his time at the top, as he proved the ‘back-it-in’ style of the Flying Finns was not as good as his clinical racetrack approach to special stages. He also helped make Citroen the most successful manufacturer in rallying during his time as team leader.
He was always known as a fair competitor and a gentleman, not give to complaining – at least in public – or temper tantrums.
But that changed in Saudi, as he unloaded through Instagram.
“You’ve got to know me a little after all these years and only very rarely do I have a ‘rant’. But this evening, I need to share with you the incompetence of the stewards’ panel,” Loeb said.
He said the officials were risking nothing more than “spilling his coffee” while “we risk our lives every day in the car”.
Loeb blamed his speeding incident on a ‘bug’ in the GPS system that was known to its suppliers, and stood on his record in defending the incident.
“During all my participations in all stages and during all the speed control zones, I have always done my best to respect this rule,” he said.
“The alarm did not sound . . . and So I was not able to slow down in time.”
As yet there has been no reported blow-back from the Dakar management, although Loeb’s comments are sure to spark an official investigation into his behaviour.
But there is no concession from him.
“I am passionate but above all I am a competitor. And today, if I am in a race like the Dakar, it is first and foremost to achieve what I am employed for: to achieve a result that meets the ambitions of the team and meets my ambitions,” he said.