The nine-time WRC champion will return to the top of the rally for the first time since defeating rival Sebastian Auger and won his 80th career victory in his first season at Monte Carlo in January, which was a one-off.

Since then, Loeb has struck a new deal to take part in the first gravel rally of the season at the M-Sport Ford Puma in Portugal, where he will join 12 hybrid Rally1 cars, including eight-time champion Auger, who is recovering part of his time with Toyota .

Loeb instantly rode with Puma on the asphalt in Monte Carlo, but the first gravel rally for Rally1 cars should be a new challenge for drivers.

Frenchman and navigator Isabelle Galmish was able to pass the test before the competition in Portugal, and Loeb hopes he will not be far from a place on the podium.

The 48-year-old junior is heading to Portugal after heading to the DTM race in Portugal earlier this month in Portugal, where he placed 16th and 18th.

“The first feeling in the Puma on the gravel during our tests was pretty good, I was very pleased with the feeling I felt when we were working on the suspension and differentials,” said Loeb, who is also going to participate in the 50th WRC. holiday season this weekend.

“Just one day of testing is not enough when you drive for the first time on gravel, but in the end I was happy with the feeling that arose.

“My goal is to find a rhythm as soon as possible, I hope I will fight at a good pace on the front, if I could be close to the podium, it would be a good performance.

“The problems of the Portugal Rally for me will be that I am fourth on the road, road cleaning is always a problem in such a rally when it is dry.

“I really don’t know what to expect there, so we need to have a good first day and the rest we’ll see where we are.”

Sebastian Loeb, Isabel Holmish, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1, testing

Photo: M-Sport

Loeb will drive one of the five M-Sport Ford Puma at the event, joining the regulars Craig Bryn, Gus Greensmith, Adrien Furmo and Pierre-Louis Lubewhich will make the second of seven scheduled launches in 2022.

“Portugal is always a tough rally, and since this is our first gravel rally with a new car, it will probably be a big challenge,” said M-Sport team manager Richard Millener.

“With a lineup of five cars, the team is working in exceptional circumstances, starting in Croatia, and we are all honored to be the first manufacturer to exhibit five Hybrid Rally1 cars at one event.

“Based on our testing and development program last year, as well as feedback received before the event, I think the Puma Hybrid will work well on gravel, as our drivers feel comfortable and confident in the car.

“One of the highlights of the team’s enthusiasm is the return of Seba and Isabel to the team after leading us to victory at Monte earlier this year.

“It’s strange to think that we’ve only had two trips since then, but we’re glad they’re back for the first gravel event of the season. It’s especially important to have such a sports icon with us this weekend. That we’re celebrating 50 years WRC; the time is just perfect. “

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