Sébastien Loeb's incredible Championship-winning Citroen Xsara WRC

17th January 2023
Andrew Willis

Cheese and pickle. Strawberries and cream. Morecombe and Wise. Lennon and McCartney. Some things were just destined to work together. And as I explored the Cathedral paddock at the Goodwood Festival of Speed presented by Mastercard, I locked eyes with one of the most potent and prestigious motorsport pairings of all time. A 2004 Citroën Xsara WRC with four very special letters – Loeb –  stuck to its pristine bodywork beside the tricolour. 


Presented by Girardo & Co, this is unquestionably the most historically significant Xsara on the planet, having blasted Sébastien Loeb and his co-driver Daniel Elena to nine podium finishes and six World Rally Championship victories in New Zealand, Greece, France, Spain, Italy and Japan. Ultimately being the single chassis that would see Loeb secure his second and third drivers’ titles, along with Citroën’s third and fourth constructors’ championships. 

As part of the ‘Ultimate Rally Cars’ batch at the 2022 FOS, the Xsara was a genuine weekend highlight, and while peering through the plexiglass window, a voice asked if I’d like to take a seat inside. Yes. Yes, I would. 

Clambering over the roll cage with as much grace and flexibility as an arthritic sloth, I’m finally in. Positioned so low, I’m sure that’s the Goodwood tarmac up against my bum. But unexpectedly, the Xsara fits absolutely perfectly. It is comfy – not at all claustrophobic – and despite its compromised sightlines, hindered by the wide-winged seats of the era, I can instantly imagine hacking through the French countryside. Leaving a wake of gravel, dirt and cut grass as I pop and whistle past rundown farmhouses and remote villages. 

Helping me into the car, and giving us the once over is Marcus Willis, a man described as ‘Girardo & Co’s resident research guru’ and also the man who had the privilege of driving the Xsara up the Goodwood Hill in 2022. 


“Loeb drove the car as a works car through three seasons of the World Rally Championship. He won in total six World Rally events with this car, and we’ve recently restored it back to its 2005 Tour de Corse winning Livery.”

That’s significant because it was the 2005 Tour De Course where Loeb brought home his first home rally victory. Not only did he win it, he utterly dominated. Winning the event shakedown and then every single stage of the 12-stage event. It was the first time in history that had ever been done. A proper doer.

“He was in a total league of his own. So we wanted to put it back to that spec and livery. It’s by far the most successful Xsara World Rally Car out there. Loeb won nine World Championships back to back. Three in this car.” 

Sat within the same cockpit, looking at the same wheel and controls as Loeb did, you can’t help but feel the Xsara is a living, breathing monument to a rally driver that was at the very peak of his powers in period. So imagine how special it felt for Marcus to drive the four-cylinder turbocharged whippet up the Hill. 


“Yesterday was the first time I drove the car, ever. It's easier than you think. It's just a paddle, so you can't get it too wrong. But yes, super fast. I've just got to figure out the launch control now. The shifts are phenomenal though. They are so fast. It's all about the torque. In every single gear, it just pulls. You just have to keep throwing gears at it. The quicker the better.”

“I'm going past the house shifting into 6th. You don't need to brake for the first two corners. The first two are small lifts, but then it's flat until Molecomb. Down two, then back up to 6th gear. We're going about 100mph past the house. It tops out at around 120.”

Considering Marcus was blatting by a country house, on a narrow, undulating, private driveway, surrounded by thousands of onlookers and live TV coverage, he was remarkably calm. Especially so with the unique provenance of the chassis. 


“There are only a handful that ever made it into private hands. In terms of good cars, ones that haven't had massive accidents, there are a handful at most. Five or six. But none to this standard.

“The condition of it is phenomenal. To put it back into its period livery with those famous four letters on the side of it is really special. It is all original works parts. It lived a life after the works sold it and it did a few rallies in private hands. But we know exactly where it's been its whole life. We know what it's done."

And with that, we shook hands and wished Marcus luck for a safe and enjoyable weekend. The Xsara’s championship dominating days may well be behind it, but thanks to the work of Girado & Co and rally restoration experts PH Sport, we can all celebrate a car and a man who piloted it so fearlessly within one of motorsport’s most technical and mind-blowing racing categories.  

Photography by Joe Harding 

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