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Thu 15 Sep 2022

Loubet: No full-time drive ‘for the moment’

Pierre-Louis Loubet admits there is no full-time drive in his sights quite yet despite another head-turning performance at EKO Acropolis Rally Greece.

Loubet has made the most of limited opportunities with M-Sport Ford this season - highlighted by a fourth-place finish for the British squad at Rally Italia Sardegna in May which he repeated last weekend in Greece. 

His performance in Greece was particularly memorable as the Frenchman claimed two stage wins on Friday and briefly moved into the lead only to have his momentum stalled on Saturday morning with a puncture which dropped him to seventh. 

The former WRC2 champion was undeterred and continued to push, eventually hauling himself and his Puma back up to fourth. 

“It was a fantastic result for us and we can be really happy with the final result,” enthused Loubet. “What we did on Friday and what we managed on Saturday [was an] amazing feeling.”

There were questions of how Loubet would cope with perceived pressure on Saturday morning as he found himself in unfamiliar territory sitting second overall, but he was quick to put heed to any such discussions.

“Everybody told me you have pressure. I just said: ‘No, you have pressure when you are last, not when you are first or second - it is a different feeling'.

“I just said I will continue to do what I did on Friday but I had no pressure, it was actually even less than before.”

Despite the potential shown in his six outings so far this year, Loubet explained that, for the time being, there is no talk of a full-time drive in 2023.

“We will see, but not for the moment,” he admitted. “It is a question you will have to ask to them (M-Sport). We have to drive more for sure if we want to push the top drivers.”

M-Sport Ford team principal Rich Millener praised the efforts of Loubet, particularly following the setback of Saturday morning’s opening test.

“He’s kept going, got around a few technical issues - which I think everybody has had their fair share of - and ended up with fourth, so he should be very proud. 

"It’s been a continual improvement over this year on what is only a selected part-time drive. Anyone can do the statistics and his stats are pretty good this year.”

Asked about Loubet’s future, Millener provided a measured answer. 

“We have seen it before with good drivers,” he said. “When you have no pressure and you are enjoying yourself you can do very well. When you start to be expected to do well, that is when it can sometimes become a little bit more tricky.

“The best answer at the moment is the political one of trying to keep everyone on the same level and balance it and see who can keep going and keep improving. That will be the key towards the future.”

Loubet sits out Repco Rally New Zealand later this month but returns to action for Rally RACC - Rally de España in October. The Salou-based asphalt fixture marks his final outing of the year.