Sebastien Loeb savaged after sports his pilot’s cap after crushing victory was crushed in a fall

Rescue workers rushed to a coffee tree in the background, left, to rescue a woman in her 70s that was trapped after the rockfall (Edoardo Di Silvestro, EPA)

Reigning champion Sebastien Loeb had an unpleasant surprise on Tuesday at the Rally Monte Carlo, when a rockfall crushed his Volkswagen Touareg and left only its tail section.

In a strange turn of events, Loeb, who led the circuit for 21 straight races before being knocked off course by Briton James Hillier during the second stage, now has a reed hat in his competition trophy case. Loeb, who has won all but one race in Monte Carlo and taken three of the last five races, said the loss of his car in the rockfall was a wake-up call.

“Even if you are the world champion you don’t think about the safety features, but in this case everything was there,” he said. “For sure it’s a big hit for us.”

Adding to Loeb’s despair was the fact that he played down the smash during the first two days of the event, suggesting he would have come out ahead of rivals if he hadn’t crashed.

He came from the back in the first stage of the second day and by the time he crashed was 11 seconds behind leader Hillier. He took it in his stride. “I was coming from behind and I just saw a way out of the situation,” he said. “I said to myself this is the end of the day. I have nothing to lose.”

And as fireworks went off around the track, when he realized his car had crashed Loeb attempted to swing his head around to see if he could rescue a woman trapped underneath the vehicle. On reaching the scene of the accident, he saw that he had missed the woman and went back and found her.

“I realized I had to go back and start again because the car was not safe,” he said. “So I climbed into the car to drive it again.”

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