Several DTM drivers have praised Sebastien Loeb following his DTM debut, labeling the nine-time World Rally champion’s first appearance in the series as “impressive”.
Loeb took part in his first DTM weekend during the season opener driving the AlphaTauri AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020.
The Frenchman acted as a replacement for full-season driver Nick Cassidy, who was unable to contest the season opener due to a Formula E clash.
Loeb finished outside the points in both races, finishing 16th on Saturday and 18th on Sunday.
Notably, the 48-year-old qualified seven-tenths off pole for the first race in a field where 24 out of 29 drivers were separated by less than a second.
Loeb also had less track time than most of the other DTM drivers, completing a private test at Spa-Francorchamps alongside Cassidy but missing the first official pre-season tests at Hockenheim.
This meant that he only joined the other drivers for the second set of tests at Portimao in the week leading up to the season opener.
AF Corse teammate Felipe Fraga, who scored a podium finish on Sunday, praised the progress Loeb made behind the wheel of Ferrari’s GT3 car from the first test at Spa to the Portimao opener.
“I followed the whole process in Spa when we went testing and compared to how he was in Spa and here, it’s impressive,” said Fraga. “He was only seven-tenths from pole [on Saturday].
“He did less than three days of testing in the car, because he was sharing the car with Cassidy.
“I’m sure if one of us goes rallying, it would be much worse than seven-tenths from first place. So I think he deserves credit, it’s special.
“I think if he had more time with the car, more testing, he would be even more up front. It was a pleasure to be with him.”
Prior to his DTM debut, Loeb had already garnered some notable experience in sports car racing.
He competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans twice with Pescarolo Sport and finished second overall in 2006.
He also raced in the FIA GT Series in 2013, but apart from a single Porsche Supercup weekend in 2015, Loeb spent the better part of a decade away from sports cars prior to his DTM debut.
“Honestly, it was a huge pleasure to have him here, one of the biggest names of our sport,” said Nico Mueller. “To jump into that cold water, which is really what I think he did, deserves a lot of credit because this championship is very challenging.
“It’s all about the little details and with the very limited preparation he got, to get that close within such a competitive field I think is impressive, so congrats to him.”
Championship leader Mirko Bortolotti labeled Loeb a ‘total inspiration’ and praised the Frenchman’s consistency throughout the weekend.
“It’s impressive how he kept going strong in his career and still has the hunger to compete in different ways of racing,” said Bortolotti.
“I was actually analyzing the race with my teammate Rolf Ineichen and he was actually behind Sebastien for the first part of the race.
“We were analyzing the way he was driving and he was super consistent, hit all his apexes and made almost no mistakes.
“Jumping into a field like this with guys that drive GT [cars] every week for many years is not easy at all. He’s fighting and pushing and trying to get the maximum result for himself, so huge respect for Sebastien.”
It is highly unlikely that Loeb will make more appearances in DTM this year beyond his Portimao debut
Cassidy is due to return to the AlphaTauri-liveried Ferrari for Round 2 at the Lausitzring.
The New Zealander originally had one further Formula E clash on his schedule, as the Norisring round previously fell on the same weekend as the Vancouver ePrix. However, that clash has since been cleared as the event in the Canadian city was cancelled in April.