As a regular in the Citroen team, Sébastien went from strength to strength. In 2001, he took part in the French Championship on asphalt with the Xsara and the World Super 1600 in a Saxo.
The Loeb–Elena duo made a clean sweep, five victories in five races in the Super 1600. Guy Fréquelin pushed his talented driver harder.
For the Rallye Sanremo, he raced with a Xsara WRC.
Sebastian got his first fastest stage time and ultimately finished second overall, hot on the heels of the ‘Tarmac Master’ himself, Gilles Panizzi.
This shook the rally world, never had a beginner come in at this level and made such a statement!
It was a foregone conclusion that he would be part of the WRC team for the 2002 season. This was a season for learning his trade and Sébastien only raced in seven events. He ceded victory in the Monte Carlo Rally due to a time penalty, but he won Rallye Deutschland, proving his ability.
2003 was his first full season as a WRC driver. In the Citroën team, where a certain Dominique Heintz drove the zero car, Sébastien was among some of the biggest names in rally, including Carlos Sainz and Colin McRae.
But they had to accept that there was a new superstar in their ranks. Sébastien won three WRC events that year (Monte Carlo, Germany and Sanremo), had several podium finishes and failed to win the overall Championship by one point. He eventually lost out to Petter Solberg, who won that year’s WRC title after winning the Wales Rally GB. Everyone had high hopes for the young star, but no one could have expected him to hit the heights he did in his first full WRC season:he was runner-up for the driver’s Championship and, along with his teammates, had helped Citroën win the manufacturer’s Championship.