Loeb bracing for ‘radical change of scenery’

Sebastien Loeb during the 2022 Dakar Rally

Less than a week on from tackling the harsh deserts of Saudi Arabia for the gruelling Dakar Rally, the Rallye Monte-Carlo presents a whole new challenge for Sebastien Loeb.

The World Rally Championship legend will tomorrow make his M-Sport Ford debut at the iconic season-opener, where snow and ice are often a factor.

Aged 47, Loeb was a podium finisher in his most recent WRC start, the 2020 Rally Turkey, with Hyundai.

The upcoming event marks the first of the championship’s new hybrid Rally1 era, for which M-Sport Ford has been targeting a resurgence.

“It’s a radical change of scenery after spending three weeks on the Dakar Rally but it’s still very exciting to be at the start of the Monte-Carlo Rally, especially with the WRC’s new hybrid era,” said the Frenchman, who finished runner-up in the 2022 Dakar Cars class.

“I’m also proud of this collaboration with Malcolm [Wilson]’s team, working with them has been talked about throughout my career but never quite managed to happen, so thank you all, M-Sport, Ford Performance and Red Bull for finally making this happen on such an amazing event.

“For this rally, I will certainly be less prepared than the other drivers but the feeling with the Puma Hybrid Rally1 was immediately very good and everything just came together.

“I am looking forward to having fun this weekend with Isabelle [Galmiche], my new co-driver, and the whole M-Sport team.”

Ford Puma Rally1

Team principal Rich Millener described the opportunity to combine with Loeb as “a dream come true”.

“We know all the other drivers will get to benefit from his experience in Monte Carlo,” said Millener.

Chief among those other drivers is Craig Breen, who was recruited from Hyundai in the off-season to spearhead the squad on a full-time basis.

Breen suffered a brutal crash during Rallye Monte-Carlo testing last week, but is nevertheless eagerly awaiting the chance to go racing.

“The team has done an unbelievable job building and developing the Puma Hybrid Rally1 and it really shows,” he said.

“It is by far the best rally car I have ever driven and with the addition of the hybrid unit, it is going to add another dimension to the rally.

“Paul [Nagle, co-driver] and I are relishing the challenge and are really looking forward to the year ahead with M-Sport and Ford.”

Adrien Fourmaux and Gus Greensmith round out the four-strong M-Sport Ford fleet at Round 1.

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