Next month at Rallye Monte Carlo, the FIA World Rally Championship will start a new era with the introduction of the new hybrid Rally1 regulations. Now, it has been officially confirmed that one of the sport’s legends will be rejoining the field. Sébastien Loeb will be driving a Ford Puma WRC Rally1 for M-Sport in the Puma’s competitive debut.
With nine world championships, 79 WRC rally victories and 925 stage wins, Sébastien Loeb is statistically the greatest rally driver of all time. He retired from full-time rallying at the end of 2012. Similar to this new stint with M-Sport, Loeb occasionally returns in partial season deals and one-off appearances. He has driven in 18 rallies over the past nine seasons. Loeb didn’t contest any round of the 2021 WRC season and finished third in his most recent appearance at the 2020 Rally Turkey.
Many widely speculated that Loeb would return for at least one rally in the Rally1 era, especially after testing with M-Sport as the British team developed the Puma for competition. Recently, Loeb has been driving in Extreme E for Lewis Hamilton’s Team X44. He has also been a frequent Dakar competitor and will contest the 2022 Dakar Rally next week with Prodrive’s Bahrain Rally Xtreme team.
Daniel Elena, Loeb’s co-driver of over 20 years, will not be competing in January. Elena announced his retirement in November. Instead, Isabelle Galmiche will be alongside Loeb in the Puma. Galmiche is a member of Loeb’s safety notes team. She is also a very experienced co-driver in French national competition and served as Elena’s reserve during Loeb’s recent two-year stint at Hyundai.
Even after such a lengthy and successful career, Loeb still has a passion for the WRC. He told the WRC website, “I like what I do, I always enjoying driving, but when I do a WRC event it is just an amazing feeling. It is something I enjoy a lot,” Starting a year with the Dakar and Rally Monte Carlo seems brutal, but I’m not Sébastien Loeb.