Loubet’s run of bad luck will end, says M-Sport boss

Loubet/Gilsoul during the 2023 Rally de Portugal

At moments this season, Pierre-Louis Loubet has shown glimpses of the potential that convinced M-Sport to hand him a full drive in a bells and whistles Rally1 car for the 2023 World Rally Championship.

During a partial programme on European-only rallies with the Ford-supported team last year, he came fourth at both Rally Italia Sardegna and Acropolis Rally Greece – his standout results to date after two spells with a 2C Competition-run Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC.

However, whilst there has been undeniable brilliance from the young Frenchman early in this campaign, more often than not driver error or car woes have prevented him for having anything to show for it

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His latest setback came on Rally de Portugal last weekend – an event he briefly led before slipping behind team-mate Ott Tanak and eventual runner-up, Dani Sordo. After surviving a fire scare towards the end of the third stage that was traced back to the car’s exhaust, he went on to retire with suspension damage on Saturday after hitting tree stump and ending up in an embankment.

Understandably, he was furious and forlorn in equal measure at the outcome, particularly as the Matosinhos-based meeting was being touted as a real turning point given how the former WRC2 champion tends to excel in hotter, dustier climates. And for a time it was as he sat nine tenths of a second away from the podium places at the end of the opening day with the vastly experience Nicolas Gilsoul sitting alongside him.

“Our performance, in terms of pace, I think is strong already,” was Loubet’s take on the latest setback. “On Friday and Saturday, the pace was there, which is good. We went back to the set-up we had used last year and I felt better in the car. We were able to set a best time on SS1 and fight for the top-three.

“Unfortunately, the small mistake on Saturday had big consequences for us. It is a shame, but it is part of the rally, unfortunately but I am sure with the pace we have the right results will come,” he added.

Publicly at least, Loubet’s boss continues to show patience with the much-liked 26-year-old. After all, when securing his services, Richard Millener knew better than most people in the service park that the age-old process of learning on the job would mean lengthy and expensive repair bills and regular pep talks.

And judging by what he has seen so far after five rounds on asphalt, snow and gravel, Millener remains of the view Loubet is going to get the rub of the green before too long.

“I have been very impressed with Pierre-Louis’ grit and determination on what has been a rally of highs and lows for him,” he said.

“He has had his fair share of bad luck this weekend – but time and again he shows us that he is not willing to give up. I am confident he will soon see the results he deserves.”

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