Nine-time World Rally Champions Daniel Elena and Sebastien Loeb have announced their separation after 23 years together as driver and co-driver. In those years, the dynamic duo won every World Rally Championship between 2004 and 2012, making the Franco-Monegasque partnership the most successful in the history of the motorsport.
The Principality native told French sport publication L’Équipe that; “Séb called me shortly before midday today (March 16) to let me know that he will be continuing his career with another co-driver. He told me that Prodrive requested it, that they found that I was not as motivated, and I made too many navigational errors during the last Dakar.”
Elena and Loeb’s most recent drive was at the 2021 Dakar Rally for the Prodrive-run Bahrain Raid Xtreme team. The Prodrive-constructed BRX1 car made its debut at the Dakar Rally, and suffered several mechanical problems. In the rally’s eighth stage the pair was forced to retire, after picking up two punctures with only one spare tyre onboard.
Since that phone call, Elena took to his social networks with an emphatic message for his now-former team, which can be viewed below:
Within the video, Elena looked back at the illustrious career that he has enjoyed with his long-time friend and driver, before hitting back at the Prodrive team. Rally’s most decorated co-driver accused the British team of not listening to his and Loeb’s advice.
“They said ‘Elena doesn’t know how to navigate’, ‘Elena is bad, he loses Loeb too much time’. Before saying that, first listen to Elena. Your car is not built to win, your team is completely unstructured. You never listened to me, I spent hours with my engineer telling you what to do, what not to do in order for us to try and win a Dakar, to build a solid car.”
“We got there, you hadn’t listened to the advice, whether that was from me, or from Séb. You did what suited you. Your philosophy is simple: we are Prodrive, we are the greatest team in the world, we’ve won everything. But the last thing you won in the WRC was in 2003 with Solberg. Since then, Loeb and Elena arrived on the scene.”
The Monegasque then made it clear that he had no hard feelings towards Loeb, stating; “Séb, I have nothing against you, I will always be behind you, we will remain mates. You wrote this to me after we left the WRC in 2013 : ‘I am lucky to have met you’. I also was lucky to meet you and I wish you good luck with your new co-driver.”
Loeb also took to Twitter in light of this development, as the Frenchman shared a picture from 1998 of the pair’s first ever rally win, the first of what would become very many.
Speaking with L’Equipe, Loeb said that “Time will tell if it is the right decision. But that doesn’t change (his) relationship with Daniel.” So far, Elena’s replacement for the 2022 Dakar Rally has not been announced.
Loeb’s next race will be with a co-driver of a different kind, as he will share the driving of the X44 team’s Odyssey 21 with Spain’s Cristina Gutiérrez in the inaugural race of the all-electric Extreme E championship.
Featured image: Daniel Elena and Sebastien Loeb after winning the 2012 Monte-Carlo Rally with the the Citroën Total World Rally Team