Didier Auriol, the 1994 World Rally Champion, makes a surprise comeback to the Race of Champions Showcase event this weekend as a straggler, competing in the French line-up as a team-mate to Sébastien Loeb.
No teammate for Loeb had been announced ahead of the event, and Auriol’s participation was not confirmed until Tuesday – the day of the shootout bracket draw.
Auriol currently holds the record for most singles titles at the Race of Champions, amassing four wins in the 1990s when the event was held on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria.
“It is very nice to take part in this race. It’s been amazing for me, you know – I don’t race anymore and competing in the Race of Champions to be Mr Loeb’s co-driver will be very nice,” Auriol told DirtFish.
This is going to be something very special. 😍
1994 #WRC World Champion and all-time ROC record holder Didier Auriol returns! Auriol will join forces with @SebastienLoeb, who also has a chance to equal Didier’s record of four individual ROC wins. 🇫🇷#ROCSweden pic.twitter.com/Y8ZgOVIPNn
— #ROCSweden (@RaceOfChampions) February 1, 2022
Loeb is a Race of Champions win away from matching Auriol’s record tally, but Auriol has no expectations of equaling his record with his late appearance, instead hoping to help his nine-time world champion compatriot to a Nations Cup win to back up.
“No, on the contrary, I want to be here for this event and for Mr. Loeb!” Auriol joked when asked if he hoped to keep the record to himself.
“OK, seriously, I don’t think I can fight for the win, but we’re trying anyway. Loeb’s chance of winning the fourth title is all the greater. I’m very happy when I’m here, it would be very nice to have two French at the helm.”
“We’ll see what happens after I drive the car. If I feel good, I’ll do my best. I don’t drive a lot and I don’t fight like a young driver, world champion, you know. I see these nice Finnish riders, very young and fighting every week, so it gets very complicated. But we will try!”