Nine-time world rally champion Sébastien Loeb will once again take the wheel of an M-Sport Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1 at the Rally of Portugal in May.
After a stunning debut with the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team at Rallye Monte Carlo in January, M-Sport has announced that Loeb and co-driver Isabelle Galmiche will rejoin the team to complete a five-car Puma Hybrid Rally1 line. to be completed – in Portugal.
Loeb returned to the FIA World Rally Championship in January, taking a total of six stage wins in the event when he battled eight-time champion Sébastien Ogier, before taking overall victory in the opening event of the 2022 season.
After gaining more success in multiple disciplines around the world since his first win of 2022, Loeb will take to the famed Porto gravel stages, assisted by Galmiche, the first woman to record an overall win in the WRC since 1997.
With nine WRC championships and 80 rally wins, Loeb is regarded as the discipline’s all-time greatest and one of the greatest drivers in motorsport history, period – and at 48 years old, he shows no signs of slowing down. As early as 2022, he will lead the FIA World Rally Raid Championship after finishing second in the Dakar Rally at the wheel of the BRX Hunter T1+. Overall, Loeb’s 2022 racing schedule includes driving in the WRC, Dakar, the FIA World Rally Raid Championship, Extreme E and DTM.
Rallye de Portugal marks a milestone for the M-Sport Ford World Rally team, which will become the first manufacturer to ever enter five Rally1 cars at the same event.
Loeb’s return coincides with the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the FIA World Rally Championship. A variety of activities are planned over the rally weekend as rallying celebrates 50 years of epic action on the most challenging stages and surfaces in the world.
The Frenchman’s history with the event began in 2007, where he took a win on his debut in Portugal after winning 11 of the 18 stages. He won the event again in 2009, after which he took two more podium finishes and a total of 32 stage wins to further his record.
Loeb said: “Riding the Puma is one of my favorite rally memories; it was incredible to win Monte Carlo after such a long time. The team worked very well, with a quick fix to the problems we encountered at the shakedown, giving us our 80th rally win.From my first test with this car I had a really good feeling right away and enjoy driving with so much power with the hybrid system.It’s a great car, a great team and we have an incredible moment together celebrated.
“Portugal was an empty spot in my calendar and it’s a gravel rally. I participated in this version of the rally in 2019, so I have a base of pace notes from some of the stages. That was one of the reasons for choosing Portugal, the other was that I wanted to do a gravel rally; I like riding on gravel, so it was a very easy choice.”
Rich Millener, team principal of M-Sport, said: “The memories of Monte Carlo are still very much alive in my mind, and I’m sure it’s the same for the whole team. Personally, it’s a dream come true to have another chance. have to work with Seb and Isabelle, the fact that they want to come and ride with us again is something incredibly special for the team and reflects all the hard work that is being done by everyone at home.
“It is also very important to give a special thank you to Ford and Red Bull who have been instrumental in securing the pairing for this event – another example of how our partners are working together to give us the strongest possible lineup for the events in the WRC this season. I am genuinely excited to see what is happening on the legendary stages in Portugal, and I know the fans will be very excited to see this news and I look forward to their support over the event weekend!”
Malcolm Wilson, Managing Director of M-Sport, said: “This has been made possible by our great partners at Ford and Red Bull, and I am really looking forward to seeing Seb and the Puma Hybrid Rally1 perform at the first real graveyard event of the year It’s great to have such a strong driver line-up and I’m very proud that our team will be the first to drive five top-level cars in a WRC event. case we can see how attractive these rally1 cars, and Puma in particular, are to drivers and we hope to continue pushing the boundaries of the sport I also hope that this popularity of the rally1 cars will lead to more customer cars participating at events around the world.”