And the road car in which I’ll be playing Loeb’s co-driver? That’ll be a Peugeot 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport – a 205bhp turbocharged 1.6-litre hot hatchback that can hit 62mph from standstill in 6.5sec. The choice of car is no surprise; Loeb currently drives a 208 in the FIA World Rallycross Championship (WRX).
As we drive out to the track, it becomes apparent that Loeb is quite a fan of the 208 GTi. “It’s a good car,” he says. “It’s a small little sports car like the ones I enjoyed when I was younger. It’s quite reactive.
My rallycross version is more fun, though, mainly because it has about 600 horsepower.”
Rallycross is the reason why Loeb is able to attend the SMMT test day. He’s in the UK for the fourth round of this year’s WRX series at Silverstone. Earlier in May, he won the Belgian event in Mettet in his Team Peugeot Total car. Loeb switched to rallycross full time in 2016 after two seasons in the World Touring Car Championship. Having won nine WRC titles prior to that, the fact he’s now competing in a discipline that combines elements of rallying and racing seems fitting.
“Rallycross is very different from WRC,” he explains as we hurtle around the first hairpin. “It’s very exciting, but also very stressful. It’s a lot of adrenaline at the start of the races.”
Loeb finished fifth in the end-of-season WRX standings in 2016 and fourth last year, establishing himself as a regular frontrunner. “There’s more intensity than in rallying, so I enjoy it. In rallying, you do many more kilometres, it’s longer, and the way you drive is different because you don’t repeat the same corner. You have to improvise a lot; you have to make good pace notes. It’s a really different experience.”
The fact that Loeb doesn’t have any notes – or a particularly competent co-driver, for that matter – doesn’t prevent him from going hammer and tongs around the Hill Route, though. He seems totally confident in his abilities, so much so that for most of our lap he only has one hand on the steering wheel, as cool as you like. So fast and stable is he on the track that he attracts the attention of one of the marshals, who shouts at him to slow down. I imagine that particular marshal has no idea who he is actually shouting at.