Andreas Bakkerud led a Citroën sweep of the podium Sunday at the European Rallycross Championship stop in Lohéac, France, where many fans had come to see French rally legend Sébastien Loeb race rallycross for the first time since winning gold at X Games Los Angeles 2012.
But Loeb, who won the World Rally Championship title for nine consecutive years (2004-12), did not reach the final after finishing fourth in the semifinals behind Bakkerud, Tanner Foust and ERC points leader Timur Timerzyanov.
"We were not so lucky from the start of the weekend. I lost some time in the first heats and then each time I had to start on the bad line, on the left line, going into the first corner so it was not the best," Loeb, who was also driving a Citroën, told Red Bull Motorsports about the two-day event. "But OK, it's like this. I think my performance was OK … fourth in the semi wasn't quite far enough."
Loeb was a wild-card entry for the race at the track he had called "the temple of rallycross." His appearance brought extra hype in his home country because it also featured a head-to-head battle with Norwegian driver Petter Solberg, the last driver to defeat Loeb for the WRC title in 2003. But it was Solberg who won his semifinal before finishing second in the main event to his countryman Bakkerud.
"It was absolutely slick," Solberg said after the race in which he used the same tires from the semifinals. "For me this is like a victory."
Davy Jeanney of France provided some consolation for the 30,000 French fans by finishing third. Lohéac, a small village in Brittany, was the site of France's first rallycross race in 1976 and it was playing host to its first ERC event since 2001.
Foust, the two-time defending Global Rallycross Championship winner and X Games Los Angeles 2013 RallyCross silver medalist, finished sixth in the six-car final after a collision with Timerzyanov sent him into a bank, puncturing his radiator.
"It's a long way to come to wind up sixth," Foust said in a release. "Even though we didn't get the result we wanted, the energy in France was electric and the fans were really supportive, so it was a great experience."
The U.S. driver is in eighth place overall with 68 points after seven rounds of the nine-round championship. Timerzyanov, another familiar face in the GRC, finished fourth in Lohéac but stretched his lead in the overall standings to 15 points over second-place Timmy Hansen (143 points to 128).
"The weekend didn't start so well but it got better," Timerzyanov said in a release. "I made a good start in the final and was third, but I got pushed again and that ruined my chances of a podium, so that's disappointing. The main thing I am really pleased about is the championship lead being bigger now."
Round 8 of the ERC will take place Sept. 14-15 at Greinbach, Austria.