The nine-time world champion is returning to the FIA World Rally Championship for the first time in more than a year to drive a Red Bull-backed Puma Rally1 on the season-opener in the French Alps this week.
The seven-time Monte winner’s deal to drive the world’s most famous rally had looked complicated by his inclusion on the Saudi Arabian marathon event in a Prodrive-run BRX Hunter.
The British team granted the Frenchman permission to drive in the WRC and then it was down to the logistics of getting out of Jeddah and back to Europe in time.
Dakar finished on Friday afternoon Middle East time and Loeb flew west early Saturday morning. Back in Geneva, there was time for a quick change before he jumped into a helicopter to cross the Alps to M-Sport’s test area close to Gap.
“We were pretty glad to see him get in the car on Sunday morning,” said M-Sport Ford team principal Richard Millener.
“Everybody has put a lot of work into getting Séb here, both in terms of the agreement and to come from one very big event to another. He’s very professional, he knew what he was taking on when we first talked about coming to Monte straight from Dakar.
“Sunday’s test went very well. There were no issues at all and no fatigue from him either. He was fresh and full of energy, which is great. Now we’re focused on the week ahead and seeing what we can do.”
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Millener marshalled caution when predicting Loeb’s result.
“I think a podium for Sébastien would be a good result,” he said. “Maybe that’s being overly optimistic, or maybe we should remember that this is the Monte Carlo Rally and anything can happen – anybody can win this thing.
“In fairness to him, he hasn’t had as much time in the car as some of the other guys and, of course, he’s been away from WRC for more than a year now.”
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