Nine-time World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb will make a surprise return to Extreme E at next week’s Island X Prix, replacing Nasser Al-Attiyah at Abt Cupra, with the Qatari driver absent due to a date clash with the Baja World Cup.

Loeb won the all-electric off-road series for X44 Vida Carbon Racing alongside Cristina Gutierrez last year, but departed ahead of the 2023 campaign when Prodrive – whom he competes with in the Dakar rally and the World Rally-Raid Championship – stopped running the Lewis Hamilton-backed outfit. This season, alongside his rally raid commitments, Loeb has been competing in the World Rallycross championship in an electric version of the Lancia Delta Integrale.

“I’m looking forward to returning to Extreme E after two seasons in the past,” said Loeb. “It’s a competition that’s similar to Rallycross, so I think I’ll be on the pace and ready to fight. It’s also going to be great to discover a new team and meet up with Klara again.”

In Sardinia, Loeb will race alongside World RX rival Klara Andersson, who took a podium on her debut alongside Al-Attiyah for the team in Chile last year, before winning the season finale in Uruguay as Loeb and Gutierrez took the title. Abt Cupra has yet to return to the podium this year so far, with a fourth place in the second round in Saudi Arabia being the team’s best result so far.

“Nasser leads the FIA Baja World Cup with two wins and has asked to be allowed to contest the third round on the same weekend – we want to make that possible for him,” said ABT CEO and team principal Thomas Biermaier. “We are happy that together with Cupra we managed to sign Seb as a great stand-in.

“Having the record world champion and reigning Extreme E champion on our team is an honor. We are all looking forward to the weekend in Sardinia. We want to have a lot of fun together, but also be successful from a sporting perspective – the goal is clearly a win.”