« Fantastic for the team » hails M-Sport


A full box! This is what M-Sport achieved this Friday on the occasion of the first stage of the Acropolis Rally. The English structure, in bad shape (and in bad shape) these last rounds, seems to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel thanks to its two French pilots aligned in Greece, namely Sébastien Loeb and Pierre-Louis Loubet, who have won all the stages contested today.

This evening, only 1.7 separates the two team-mates, with an advantage for Loeb who regained the lead in Bauxites, the very last timed section of the day. More than two months after his last freelance at the Safari Rally, the ‘Alsatian does not seem to have lost the rhythm, even if a small scare temporarily impacted his level of performance halfway through.

« It’s been a long day »recognized the nine-time World Champion at the microphone of the official WRC website, he who achieved four of the six possible scratches today. « We got off to a good start before making a mistake on the fourth stage of the day. [l’ES5, Dafni]. Afterwards it was difficult to be aggressive again, but I still told myself that I had to attack as hard as possible. The sensations were good again, and I was able to achieve the best time [dans l’ES7, Bauxites] to take the lead again, but the battle is really close, and nothing is done yet. »

Loeb has indeed a lot to do with Loubet, who for a time occupied the lead of the rally after signing his first scratch in the WRC at Dafni. A level of performance that we did not necessarily expect from the Corsican, who had skipped the previous event in Belgium and also had to get back into the boat, what is more on a round as demanding as the Acropolis Rally. « I was surprised by Pierre-Louis »continues Loeb, who salutes the hard work provided by his compatriot of almost 23 years his junior. « He was very fast and he had a good day. I didn’t expect him to be so fast, he really delivered. »

The key to Loubet’s performance today is perhaps to be found in his demeanor, with a visibly uninhibited attitude at the wheel of his Ford Puma throughout the day’s six stages. Far from being impressed, the latter also seemed relaxed this evening while answering questions from the official WRC website. « I would rather be in front [rires] ! »he thus launched jokingly. « You know, in Portugal I was already very comfortable in the car, but if you want to progress you have to spend time behind the wheel. It’s only my first season in a real WRC car, so I am gradually improving my level of comprehension, and I manage to be close to the limit now. [Demain] I will try to continue like this. If I could be sure to do the same [qu’aujourd’hui]I would sign immediately. »

A good mood that does good at M-Sport, where, as we said, the atmosphere has been deleterious in recent months due to a host of poor performances and blows of fate. All smiles the team boss, Malcolm Wilson, was relieved when debriefing this first stage. “It changes compared to what we have known in recent months”he explained. « It’s fantastic for the team and for everyone involved. Everyone knows that we have just gone through difficult months. The performances that Séb’ and Pierre-Louis have achieved are just remarkable. I am very happy for Pierre-Louis who made his first scratch [en WRC] and who immediately followed up with a second to find himself in the lead of the rally. However, I knew that Séb’ was going to launch the big attack in Bauxites to take control. »

Loubet reached new heights this Friday by signing his first two WRC scratches.

Loubet reached new heights this Friday by signing his first two WRC scratches.

A second stage which promises to be decisive

Loubet indeed suffered from various minor technical glitches in the last stage, with problems with the brakes but also with the power steering. Not enough to disturb the young Frenchman, who was able to bring his car back safely by managing to limit the damage. A composure that impressed Wilson. « Beyond his performance on the day, I’m delighted with the way he reacted when he had his problems. […]. He stayed focused and accepted to lose some time to Sébastien. »

Now it’s time for the second stage of this Acropolis Rally, the longest of the weekend and probably the hardest, especially since the starting order should be less favorable to M-Sport drivers, who will have to be wary the awakening of the competition, and in particular that represented by the Hyundai drivers. « Tomorrow is going to be the real revealer »warns Wilson. « Ott [Tänak] and Thierry [Neuville] will benefit from a better position in the starting order, and they will attack very hard. » Loeb and Loubet are warned.

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