Nine-time World Rally Champion and recent Rally Catalunya winner Sébastien Loeb will sensationally return to the Dakar Rally next year as a privateer, backed by Red Bull.

The 44-year-old Frenchman, who won his 79th WRC rally in Spain last weekend, will drive a Peugeot 3008DKR navigated by Daniel Elena. This is similar to the car with which he finished runner-up to team-mate Stéphane Peterhansel in 2017, missing out on the win by just five minutes. Loeb also convincingly led the Dakar earlier this year, before being forced to retire due to an injury sustained by his co-driver after a heavy impact in the Peruvian dunes

Sebastien Loeb (FRA) from Team Peugeot Total is towed by Cyril Despres (FRA) during stage 11 of Rally Dakar 2016 from La Rioja to San Juan, Argentina on January 14, 2016.

PSA Group ambassador Loeb – whose Peugeot will be run by independent French team PH Sport – is now bidding to become the first privateer to win the epic Dakar Rally since Jean-Louis Schlesser back in 2000. Next year’s 41st Dakar Rally takes place in Peru from January 6-17, covering approximately 5,000 kilometres over 10 stages. As usual, just getting to the finish will be an achievement.

“Throughout my career I’ve always been considered to be a favourite,” said Loeb. “While I’m obviously motivated by winning, having fun is important too. So taking part in the 2019 Dakar with Daniel, as private outsiders, is a fantastic challenge. I’m ready to give it a go: a little bit like my three WRC appearances this year, where success was far from being guaranteed. Except this time, I’m in a private team, which obviously makes it more difficult.”