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Wed 02 Nov 2022

Loubet: Expanded 2023 campaign would mean less pressure

Corsican hotshot Pierre-Louis Loubet has had time to reflect on his debut year with M-Sport Ford World Rally Team.

Loubet joined the British squad for the 2022 season having endured a tough 2021 aboard a 2C Compétition Hyundai i20 World Rally Car.

He started seven rallies and retired only in Finland and Estonia - the former being due to a mechanical issue. He will not compete at next week’s FORUM8 Rally Japan (10 - 13 November) - meaning his work for the year is done. 

The question now, is, what happens in 2023? M-Sport team principal Rich Millener praised the youngster earlier this year but suggested a full-time drive might provide additional extra pressure which could hinder Loubet’s ability to perform.

Speaking at the end of RallyRACC - Rally de España, however, Loubet disagreed with that - telling WRC.com that an expanded or full programme next season would actually remove a weight from his shoulders. 

“If I did the full championship, I would have less pressure,” he claimed. “I did seven rallies this year - that’s just one event every two months. 

“When it’s like that, you know you only have one chance all the time and it’s been like that for a long time. Now, I think I deserve to get my head down and be able to think of a longer season.” 

Having captured his first stage win at the sport’s highest level and shown himself to be the fastest of the Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid runners on occasion, the 25-year-old’s satisfaction with his season is understandable.

Loubet’s best performances came on the season’s rougher gravel events, with fourth place finishes in Italy and Greece. He led the Acropolis for two stages and looked to be well in contention for a maiden podium finish before suffering a puncture. 

“Apart from Estonia, where we touched a rock in a really complicated place, I think we did a season of seven races with no big mistakes,” he said. “For that I am proud and I am happy. To come from where we were to fighting and winning stages is good for me. 

“I’m happy to be back in this situation where we are fighting again. We saw in Spain that we lost one minute on Friday, but we still were able to show great things – including fighting in the [Wolf] Power Stage with the top guys. This shows what we can do on a Tarmac rally.”