Sébastien Loeb bowed out from the World Rally Championship in France last weekend. Or rather he rolled out, making an out-of-character mistake by carrying too much speed into a quick right-hand corner and sliding into a ditch, where his Citroën DS3 WRC came to rest upside down.
The Alsatian and his navigator Daniel Elena were unhurt in the incident, but it wasn’t a satisfactory full stop to the careers of world rallying’s most successful crew.
Scroll down for Sébastien Loeb's career in numbers
At the age of 39, Loeb has called time on his WRC commitments to take up a new challenge with Citroën in the World Touring Car Championship.
It’s a move that’s been on the cards for a few years; since winning his first top-line rally in 2002, Loeb has destroyed all previous WRC benchmarks, and has absolutely nothing left to prove in the sport.
The standard of four WRC titles, shared between Tommi Mäkinen and Juha Kankkunen, was shattered in 2008 when Loeb secured his fifth crown in succession. He didn’t stop there, winning every championship up until 2012 and ended with nine accolades to his name.
In 2007 Loeb sped past Carlos Sainz’s all-time record of 26 WRC victories, and has now reset the high-water mark at 78 wins. By comparison, Sébastien Ogier, the newly crowned 2013 world champion and driver expected to dominate the sport in a similar manner to Loeb before him, is currently on 13 victories.
Markku Alén’s record of 801 special stage victories was also eclipsed, with Loeb and Elena ending their careers on a neat 900 after annexing four special stage wins in France last weekend.
Loeb appetite for adventure has seen him explore different areas of motorsport in recent seasons. He finished second in the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2006 with the Pescarolo Sport team, and was impressively quick in 2008 when he tested a Red Bull Formula 1 car.
He runs his own sportscar racing team, and famously won the Pikes Peak hillclimb in Colorado this summer, demolishing the course record in a highly developed Peugeot 208 T16.
This year he has only competed in four WRC events, yet has scored two victories and a second place. And yet you wonder if signing off with a failure to finish on his home rally will irk the perfection-seeking Frenchman, and whether he’ll be able to resist returning to the special stages for just one attempt to end on a high note…