Sébastien Loeb Racing joins forces with Polaris to enter Xavier de Soultrait’s SSV in the Dakar 2023

Xavier de Soultrait has long participated in rally raids on two wheels, having won a stage at the Dakar Rally in the Motorcycles category and has participated in the event for eight years. For 2023, however, it will switch to four wheels as it runs a Polaris RZR Pro in SSV category (T4) for Sebastien Loeb Racing. Polaris off-road vehicles will provide factory support under a new five-year agreement with SLR.

Soultrait won the 2016 FIM Bajas World Cup and won enduro racing titles. As a factory rider for Yamaha, he made his Dakar debut in 2014, and won his first stage in 2019 en route to a career-best seventh place finish. After a series of retirements, however, he switched to Husqvarna and fielded his own entry as a privateer for the 2022 Rally, where he finished fifteenth.

“After doing co-driver tests side by side with Sébastien Loeb, we are making progress on my passage in this category. said Soultrait. “The requirement as a motorcycle or SSV rider is very high, and I hope that this next cycle will be as long as my first on two wheels. I will put all the intensity and effort necessary to succeed in this new challenge. The Dakar Rally is all about adventure and human encounters, and I think the story with Sébastien Loeb Racing can become virtuous. Of course, the presence of Sébastien Loeb as team leader will be precious because his experience and his knowledge of the discipline will be necessary for us to progress more quickly. My desire to play the leading role, as I tried to do in the last editions on two wheels, is intact. I’m sure it’s going to be another fun adventure and I can’t wait to get started.

Loeb is best known for his nine World Rally Championships, but has increased his involvement in rally raiding since retiring from full-time rallying. Run in the T1 class for Bahrain Raid XtremeLoeb finished second in the Dakar Rally 2022 and World Rally Raid Championship to Nasser Al-Attiyah.

SLR followed its owner in various series including the FIA World Touring Car and World Rallycross Championshipsalthough Loeb races for other teams rather than his own.

“The Dakar is my current discipline which I have discovered over time and which I have learned to appreciate in recent years,” Loeb commented. “I think it’s a great challenge. It is a long and difficult endurance race that highlights the collaboration between a team, its pilots and its supporters. It’s great that we can engage in this discipline with SLR.

Dominique (Heintz, team leader) began in Dakar as a motorcycle rider, and it was important to him to return to this program one day. The opportunity to work with a manufacturer like Polaris is particularly motivating for us. Operating Polaris vehicles is a great opportunity for our team. We will try to do great things together so why not win the category in the future?

Polaris will be looking to break the hold Can-Am has on the T4 in Dakar. After Leandro Torres won the class in a RZR in 2017, the Can-Ams have won the class every year since, including a podium sweep in the last four editions.

“A first period of ten years has just ended during which we have experienced many things which have had a great impact on the whole team”, commented Heintz. “We are entering a new decade and want to mark the occasion with new projects. The future of the Sébastien Loeb Racing team will be rally raids. The Dakar is a monument and will remain so for a long time. The human factor makes this discipline a very unique competition.

“We will not take this new challenge lightly because you have to master a certain number of subjects in this discipline and there is no room for chance. Humility has always been our way of working with Sébastien so we will keep a cool head to offer a competitive structure. We are exceptionally lucky to have Seb by our side on a program he knows well.

“This new adventure with Polaris is the logical continuation of our desire to work with prestigious manufacturers since the creation of the team. I am convinced that our collaboration will bring great things and we have already started working to be ready at the beginning of 2023. It is an extremely difficult event, all scenarios must be considered and we are working on it with the Polaris teams.

“For me, the Dakar started thirty years ago and it is an event that has guided my whole life, so it is with great emotion that I want to take up this next challenge with my team.

Wiley C. Thompson