Ahead of the first gravel rally of the Rally1 era of the WRC, not only Sebastien Ogier but also Sebastien Loeb is holding back on his claims
This weekend’s Rally Portugal (19-22 May) will see Sebastien Ogier (Toyota) and Sebastien Loeb (M-Sport-Ford) clash for the second time in the current 2022 World Rally Championship (WRC) season
Because this is the first gravel rally with the Rally1 cars, which are new for this year, the top stars will start with a cautious attitude. Ogier had recently said that he does not expect Loeb and himself to drive away at the front in Portugal, as they had done in their duel for victory at the Rally Monte Carlo in January.
And Loeb is also holding back on his expectations. This week, the nine-time World Rally Champion tested the M-Sport entered Ford Puma Rally1 on gravel for the first time. “We tried different set-ups of the suspension and the differential and I was quite happy with the feeling. But just one day of testing is just not much when you drive the car on gravel for the first time,” said Loeb.
In addition to the fact that it will be the first gravel rally with the Rally1 cars for all twelve WRC factory drivers, Loeb has a second challenge to overcome: “I will start the rally in fourth place. So I will be one of the ‘road sweepers’, should it be dry. That’s always particularly difficult in this rally. “
“So I don’t really know what to expect. First of all, we need a good first day. Then we’ll see. My goal is to find a rhythm as soon as possible,” says the 48-year-old Frenchman, hoping that “with a good rhythm, I might be able to compete for the podium. That would be a good performance”.
As in the victory at the “Monte” in January, Isabelle Galmiche is again sitting in the co-driver’s seat in Loeb’s Puma. In the M-Sport team, Loeb is one of five drivers on the Portugal weekend. The other four are Craig Breen, Adrien Fourmaux, Gus Greensmith and Pierre-Louis Loubet.
By the way: For Loeb, the Rally Portugal will already be the second competition in the southern European country within three weeks. On 30 April and 1 May, he made his DTM debut at the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao. There, at the wheel of an AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo, he finished 16th and 18th in the two races and was particularly convincing in the flying starts.