Fri 27 May 2022

Legend Loeb confirms Safari comeback

Sébastien Loeb has announced his return to M-Sport Ford’s line-up for one of the most anticipated rounds on the calendar, Safari Rally Kenya (23 - 26 June).

The nine-time world champion is currently contesting selected rounds with the British squad - most recently appearing at Vodafone Rally de Portugal last week - where he retired from the lead after a mistake saw him collide with a wall. 

M-Sport Ford confirmed on Friday morning (27 May) that Loeb will return for round six of the FIA World Rally Championship, marking his first Kenya start since 2002 when he steered a Citroën Xsara to fifth place. 

The Frenchman will once again be co-driven by Isabelle Galmiche, who also guided him to an overall victory on the pairing’s Ford debut at Rallye Monte-Carlo in January. He will line up alongside fellow Puma drivers Craig Breen, Gus Greensmith and Adrien Fourmaux. 

“It was nice to see we were competitive in Portugal with the Puma, and it is good to know the car is very fast and competitive on gravel,” said Loeb.  

“This is something very different to Portugal. I don’t know the current version of the rally, but I have seen some videos of the stages and they are very different - they appear to be rough with very big stones. 

“Kenya is quite amazing; I think it’s the rally from where I have the most memories. In 2002, the rally was very different. The longest stage was 120km long and we all had a helicopter over our cars announcing all the wildlife that we were approaching on the stage. 

“Now it’s very different and it’s more like a typical WRC rally, but the difference for me, compared to Portugal, is that I have no experience of these stages. It is always much more complicated when you arrive to a rally where you have never done the stages before. It will not make it easy, but I am really happy to be going,” he added. 

Loeb’s announcement comes just days after his fellow compatriot and eight-time world champion Sébastien Ogier also revealed an entry for the East African encounter.

Ogier clinched victory at the Naivasha-based event last year when the Safari returned to the WRC following a 19-year absence. He will steer a GR Yaris for Toyota Gazoo Racing.

M-Sport Ford team principal Richard Millener expressed his delight at welcoming Loeb and Galmiche back to the team.

“We’re thrilled to have Séb and Isabelle back with us again,” he said. “Séb obviously has a fantastic track record on gravel events and his performance on Rallye Monte-Carlo, and Portugal, while it lasted, showed us what both he and this car are capable of. 

“With Safari Rally Kenya still being a fairly new edition to the calendar, we have a pretty even playing field and I think with Séb in the team we can really show everyone what the Puma can do.”

Safari Rally Kenya comprises 19 special stages covering almost 365km of competition.

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