Chaos Of Extreme E Keeps Sébastien Loeb Coming Back For More

Chaos Of Extreme E Keeps Sébastien Loeb Coming Back For More

French rally driver Sébastien Loeb has done it all: He’s claimed nine World Rally titles, won six touring car races, and made it onto the podium at the formidable Dakar three times. Now, at 49 years old, he’s midway through his third season in all-electric off-road series Extreme E and even claimed the sport’s title in its second year.

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“I enjoy it,” the Frenchman told Jalopnik during an interview after round seven of the 2023 Extreme E season. “I have time to spend with Extreme E and I enjoy it.”

Photo: Extreme E

During the final of the seventh round of the championship in Sardinia, Loeb was caught out at the start and fell to the back of the five-car pack. Then, after switching with his teammate Klara Andersson to take on the final two laps of the race, the car ended up running on three wheels after a collision. Despite being one wheel short of a full set, Andersson brought the car home in second place to claim her team’s first podium of the season so far.

“When we had the problem and she [Andersson] went on three wheels, then you think, ‘OK, everything is lost’,” explains Loeb. “Then we see the other car is spinning, another one is going this way. But we have three wheels and we just need to do two kilometers to finish the race and to be second.”

Events like this mean that it’s hard to predict the outcome of almost every Extreme E race. Nowhere was this more apparent than in Sardinia, where Acciona Sainz won the seventh round, piping Loeb and his Abt Cubra XE team to the top step of the podium in the final race. However the next day at the very same track, the Spanish team had an awful day and didn’t even make it through to the final of round eight, which also saw the Abt Cupra squad claim second.

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Image for article titled Chaos Of Extreme E Keeps Sébastien Loeb Coming Back For More

Photo: Extreme E

“It’s a part of the lottery in these races,” says Loeb. “It’s not exactly what I was used to in the past, that you fight for your position and you have a clean road and you just push. But it’s how it is and it makes a good show.”

He’s right, the closely fought on-track action keeps Extreme E fans entertained. It’s also something that the sport’s managing director, Ali Russell, believes has helped it grow rapidly over its three years in action.

“We’re going to be growing 50 percent in terms of audience figures this year,” Russell told me in Sardinia. “This is incredible for motorsport. So I’m incredibly optimistic about the levels of engagement we’ve had and that we’re going to continue to have.”

Image for article titled Chaos Of Extreme E Keeps Sébastien Loeb Coming Back For More

Photo: Extreme E

It turns out that the qualities that make Extreme E appeal to race fans also help entice drivers onto the grid, as Loeb says the race format in Extreme E makes it “fun in the car.”

“You have some contact and sometimes it’s broken,” he explains. “You start to get used to it and I enjoy it.”

Now, Extreme E is preparing for the final two rounds in its 2023 calendar, which will see the sport take to Chile for two races in Antofagasta in December.