Tuesday | 13 Sep 2022

Loeb backs Puma potential

Nine-time world champion Sébastien Loeb has reiterated the potential of M-Sport’s Ford Puma despite retiring from the lead of EKO Acropolis Rally Greece.

Loeb and co-driver Isabelle Galmiche emerged from Saturday’s opening test 19.0sec clear of the field but retired just a few metres on from the finish of the stage when the alternator belt came off their Puma. 

The pair made frantic efforts to re-fit the belt but ultimately ran out of time. They opted not to restart on Sunday morning as Loeb could not see the benefit in opening the road for three short stages. 

It was Loeb’s third retirement in four rallies for the British squad this season, which started so greatly with victory at Rallye Monte-Carlo. Turbo failure was to blame in Portugal, while an electrical fault hit just four stages into Safari Rally Kenya. 

Despite the disappointment, Loeb backed up the Puma’s potential and explained that he wouldn’t be competing if he didn’t believe the car was capable of winning.

WATCH: Loeb retires from Acropolis lead

“I’ve said it since the beginning,” Loeb explained. “I feel really well in the car and I think it has potential. I like to drive it, I really enjoy it, and I think it suits my driving style. I am happy with the car and I don’t complain. 

“When I stopped with Hyundai [in 2020], I didn't really think I would come back. But I had another opportunity and I liked the car since the first test I did, so I decided to give it a try.

“I think all the cars can win - it’s really close between them all. The Puma motivates me to do some rallies because I feel good in it - we just need to be able to finish. WRC is very demanding with all the preparations and, if I do that, it’s because I am motivated to do it.

“I think we have not really been lucky,” he continued, “but I have been leading every rally that I have done. For me, to come back a few years later and to be able to lead all of these rallies I think is not too bad.”

Going into more detail on the issue which ended his Acropolis, the Frenchman believes the alternator bearing was to blame. 

“I took everything apart to make the alternator loose so that we could put the belt back on and make it strong,” he explained. “I rebuilt everything and it was on a downhill, so we could jump-start the car. 

“The engine started but 200 metres later it switched off again. The belt had jumped off again, so I think the bearing of the alternator was broken.”

With three rounds remaining, it is yet to be confirmed whether we will see Loeb again before the end of the season. Old foe Sébastien Ogier - who Loeb battled with in Monte-Carlo - drives a Toyota GR Yaris in New Zealand later this month. 

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