Written by Andrew Lwanga, Edited by William Stephens
Nine-time World Rally Champion Sebastian Loeb has announced another one-off return to the WRC at the fourth round of the Championship in Portugal.
Loeb will be back at the helm of a M-Sport Ford Puma, the car he drove to his 80th career victory at the opening round of the season at the Monte Carlo Rally. Loeb will also re-enlist the services of co-driver Isabelle Galmiche who helped guide him to victory in Monte Carlo.
The return to WRC is part of a heavily scheduled 2022 for the rally legend with a campaign in DTM, Extreme E and the World Rally Raids Championship all beckoning for the 48 year old. The Frenchman however, seems to be enjoying it all.
“Driving the Puma is one of my favourite rally memories; winning Monte Carlo after such a long time was incredible,” said Loeb. “The team worked really well, with a quick fix to the difficulties we faced at shakedown, allowing us to claim our 80th rally win.”
“From my first test with this car, I immediately had a very good feeling and I enjoy driving with so much power with the hybrid system. It’s a great car, a great team and we celebrated an incredible moment together.”
“Portugal was an empty space in my calendar and it’s a gravel rally, I have competed on 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 I wanted to do a gravel rally; I like driving on gravel so it was a very straightforward choice.”
Sharing his excitement was M-Sport managing director Malcolm Wilson, stating: "I’m really looking forward to seeing how Seb and the Puma Hybrid Rally1 perform on the first real gravel event of the year."
Wilson also added that he believes the hybrid Rally1 cars carry a certain appeal to drivers and that he hopes that appeal will translate into more competitors.
"If anything, this shows just how appealing these Rally1 cars and the Puma in particular, are to drivers and we hope to continue to push the limits of the sport.”
“I am also hoping this popularity of the Rally1 cars will lead us to seeing more customers' cars competing on events around the world.”