It’s now confirmed: Sébastien Loeb will be back in the WRC next season. A news that was foreseen, after the nine-time World Champion tested in Spain and France, in October and November, the new Ford Puma hybrid prepared by M-Sport for the entry into force of the Rally1 regulations.
Discussions between Loeb, the sponsors and the team continued for several months before an agreement was finally reached to allow the 47-year-old Frenchman to get behind the wheel of a fourth Puma for the Rallye Monte-Carlo event. which he has won seven times so far and who will kick off the championship next month. At this stage, Loeb is only confirmed for this event, where he will therefore be opposed to Sébastien Ogier, eight times World Champion and entered with Toyota before a partial year.
Loeb has not played a full season in the WRC since 2012, with Citroën, but he has on the other hand been seen more or less regularly thereafter, first with the French manufacturer, then with Hyundai. It was in this context that he won his record 79th WRC victory in Rally Spain 2018. His participation in Rallye Monte-Carlo will be a first since he raced in Turkey last year, a event in which he was third in a partial program with Hyundai.
« It’s nice to work with M-Sport. It’s a very professional team and they know how to build good cars », says Sébastien Loeb. « Since the beginning of my career I have fought against Ford, but I have always known Malcolm [Wilson] as someone very involved in his team and passionate about rallying. We have always had a good relationship. I’m really excited for the Monte-Carlo, it’s really an exciting challenge. «
« To start the new WRC rules with such a strong team makes me very proud and it shows the confidence these guys have in the new Puma Rally1 », says Malcolm Wilson, team boss. « I almost made a deal with [Loeb] in 2005, unfortunately at the time, we weren’t able to do that. However, with the introduction of the new Rally1 regulations in 2022 and following discussions with Red Bull, we both reached out to Seb to see if he would be interested in coming and testing the new cars. He was, he did and now we are in a position to say he will join the team next year! «
“It’s fantastic to be able to bring such an accomplished rider to M-Sport and I have no doubt that he is still able to deliver a fantastic result while being a mentor to our other riders. It may have taken over 16 years for this deal to come true, but it’s great to see it finally come to fruition! «
To make this agreement possible, Sébastien Loeb was released from his contract with Prodrive, with whom he was entered on the Dakar and in Extreme E this year and for 2022. « We agreed with Seb that he would do a few more races in the WRC and that would ultimately help his Dakar and Extreme E campaigns », says David Richards, President of Prodrive. « Seb is an incredible talent, who hasn’t lost any of his competitive spirit and who must be one of the favorites for the Dakar victory in January. He has shown in Extreme E that he always has pure speed, often setting the best times, and I have no doubt that he has the potential to fight for WRC wins next year. «
In addition to the announcement of Sébastien Loeb’s presence at Monte-Carlo, M-Sport’s announcement on Tuesday also confirms that Adrien Fourmaux will play a full season in 2022.
The WRC 2022 field:
Sébastien Ogier / Esapekka Lappi
Oliver Solberg / Dani Sordo
Sébastien Loeb (Monte Carlo)