Over the weekend Sébastien Loeb and co-driver Isabelle Galmiche put together a Rallye Monte Carlo victory that previously seemed impossible. The 47-year-old won a record-breaking 80th rally this weekend in a one-off effort for the M-Sport Ford team in the inaugural running of the new hybrid Puma WRC. This was scheduled to be Loeb’s only appearance in the WRC this year, having retired at the end of the 2020 season.
Now that the elder Frenchman is leading the championship, however, M-Sport is interested in having him on the entry list for more events. I mean, obviously.
It would stand to reason that Loeb would need to rescind his contract with Prodrive in order to continue running WRC events. He currently races for Prodrive in rally raid, where he recently finished second in the world famous Dakar event, as well as running in Extreme E with the X44 team.
M-Sport boss Malcolm Wilson, in speaking to Motorsport.com, has indicated that he would like to work a deal to get the WRC points leader to run more WRC rounds this year.
“I would really like him to do more rounds. I think he must go down in history in the highest level of sportsman, he has been absolutely incredible to do it at the age that he is, to win at the highest level against the guy who was won it eight times before. It is just remarkable.
“There is a possibility, there is a lot of things to sort out but we would like to see him back in the car, especially after here, but we have to see what happens in the next few weeks.”
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Team principal Richard Millener continued:
“I mean the whole thing was based around this event to begin with, and we will use the result of this event to see what we can do going forward.
“We have ticked off that box in the brief and we will start working on seeing what is possible for the rest of the year. It depends on Seb and it depends on a number of things.”
Obviously Ford wants to carry this momentum on through the season, extending its points lead over Toyota and Hyundai. With Toyota taking 10 of the 15 stage victories in Monte Carlo, it’s clear that the Gazoo-entered machine was the fastest on the stage, but none of the drivers could put together a full rally to get the victory. Seb Ogier came the closest, falling just 10 seconds short of Loeb’s winning time. Ford needs every gunner in its arsenal if it wants to win this championship in the first year of a new hybrid regulation, so if that means calling a near-5o-year-old out of retirement and stuffing him in a fourth chassis at every round, then so be it.
As for Loeb, it’s clear that he’s not run out of talent yet, and has a lot more to prove in this new car. Perhaps the thing that Ford needs right now is a steady hand and lots of experience on the stage in many different types of World Rally cars. Maybe that’s how the championship will be won in 2022. Time will tell, but I know I’d love to see the old guy keep running.