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Loeb on mentoring Dakar winner Cristina Gutiérrez: we push each other to improve

Roles reversed in master and apprentice as Sébastien Loeb will race the BP Ultimate Rally Raid Portugal in a Taurus T3 Max alongside Cristina Gutiérrez.

Grândola, Portugal (3rd of April, 2024) – Cristina Gutiérrez will be joined in the Challenger class of the BP Ultimate Rally Raid Portugal by her mentor Sébastien Loeb. Three-time Ultimate class runner-up at the Dakar Rally, Loeb will step down to the Challenger category for the first time to race in a Taurus T3 Max, the vehicle that Gutiérrez steered to victory at the Dakar earlier this year. Here is all you need to know:

– Loeb and Gutiérrez have shared a master and apprentice relationship since teaming up to drive Extreme E in 2021

– Under Loeb’s guidance Gutiérrez has won the Extreme E Championship plus the Challenger class of this year’s Dakar Rally

– Now it’s Gutiérrez who aims to provide Loeb advice as the nine-time WRC winner gets behind the wheel of a Taurus T3 Max by BBR Team.

Tell us about the first time you met Sebastian? How big an influence on your career has he been since you first started working with him?

Cristina Gutiérrez: “The first time I met Seb in person was at the first test we did together in the UK before competing in the Extreme E. It was very exciting to meet him because it was like meeting a motorsport legend, I had followed him for many years. From the first moment he got in the car with me, he asked me about my sporting career at that time, which was going through a difficult time since a month before I had announced that I would stop competing in the Dakar Rally because all my sponsors left due to the pandemic. He asked me my plans for the Dakar two months later and he spoke to Red Bull so that they could test me to enter the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team. It was an act of great generosity that I will always appreciate.”

Sébastien, when did you first notice Cristina’s talent behind the wheel and how proud are you of the role of mentor you have played as her career has progressed?

Sébastien Loeb: “I first noticed Cristina’s talent when we were looking to enter Extreme E and we began to search for a female driver to be on our team. I saw that she was performing well in the Spanish Rally Championship. When we started to work together in Extreme E she was very impressive, always wanting to improve and always motivated. It’s always easy to work with Cristina because of her talent and attitude.”

What have you been able to learn from Seb since you have been racing with him?

CG: “I’ve learned a lot of things, both outside and inside the races. The respect he has for his rivals, the ability to adapt to any type of car from the first moment. His passion, the way he gives interviews with journalists, how easy he makes difficult things, the simplicity with which he sees the competition. The funniest piece of advice and one that he probably doesn’t remember he said is the first time he got in as co-driver with me in the UK. The track was on grass and it was very slippery, I was cutting the grass and he told me to stop driving like a lawnmower! It was a lot of fun.”

It’s not so common to share knowledge in motorsports among athletes – how do you feel about that and why do you do it?

SL: “It’s not very often that I’m working as the coach of another driver and sharing my knowledge with them but with Cristina it feels natural to work this way. In Extreme E we were driving in the same car, in the same race. Working this way has been a new experience and it’s been very interesting to see how we can push each other to improve our collective performance.”

What’s the value of this relationship for you personally?

SL: “I’m proud of the work we have done together and to see how she has improved. Winning the Extreme E championship together was a great moment for us both. Cristina’s victory in the Challenger class at the last Dakar proves that she now knows how to manage long cross-country rallies. The first thing I told her was ‘Congratulations!’ and after that we talked about her evolution as a driver. That was the perfect result ahead of stepping up to race the Dacia in the Ultimate class at the next Dakar Rally.”

Cristina, do you think you will want to pass your know-how to younger generation as well?

CG: “I believe that it’s each person’s decision to want to help young people and I believe that it’s innate in each person’s personality. In my opinion, it’s very nice to be able to help someone reach their maximum potential by sharing your own experiences.

Now you are getting a chance to offer Seb advice in the Challenger category – how does that feel?

CG: “It’s fun to see Seb competing in the same category, I think he’ll be surprised at the level that the Taurus by BBR Team has. I greatly admire Seb for his closeness and because he’s interested in my performance at each stage of the Dakar. He’s very curious and we share our experiences throughout the rally. In one of the stages he came to ask me about the Taurus and wanted me to show it to him. For me it’s an honour that someone like him asks me and he is interested in my car.”

This will be your first time behind the wheel of the Taurus, what advice has Cristina given you about handling the vehicle?

SL: “This will be my first time in Taurus so when I have questions of course I will ask Cristina for her opinion. This rally is 1,000 kilometres long so I will have to ask questions about how to best manage the car as we go through the five timed special stages. I want to finish the rally so I need to know where the limit is.”

You will both race in the Ultimate class of the 2025 Dakar. How is the development of the Dacia Sandrider coming along?

CG: “It has been very nice to work with them because I have been able to see where they place importance. I’ve discovered what interests them most when developing a car and the professionalism they have.”

SL: “I’m really happy to have Cristina in the team. She has great Dakar experience behind her already. We have testing planned with Dacia later this year and we’re all exciting for that. I’m sure Cristina will quickly find the rhythm needed to drive our Dacia. I’m sure we will collaborate well, like we have done in the past, and this will help this new team to grow up quickly.

Watch the highlights of the BP Ultimate Rally Raid Portugal on Red Bull TV