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Loeb WRC Monte Carlo deal will be “difficult” says M-Sport team boss

M-Sport team principal Richard Millener says it will be difficult to secure a deal to allow Sebastien Loeb to contest next month’s World Rally Championship opener in Monte Carlo.

Sébastien Loeb, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team

The Ford squad is continuing to push to reach an agreement with the nine-time world champion, who claimed an 80th career win and record equalling eighth triumph at the famous asphalt rally this year.

Loeb enjoyed a partial WRC campaign with M-Sport this season which he dovetailed around successful campaigns in the World Rally-Raid Championship and Extreme E.

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During the season the Frenchman led three of the four WRC rallies he contested behind the wheel of the Ford Puma, proving a valuable member of the team.

Last week M-Sport confirmed the first of its drivers for 2023 with the high profile signing of 2019 world champion Ott Tanak, but the reminder of its line-up is yet to be announced.

Millener confirmed to Autosport that the team would like to add Loeb to their ranks for 2023, but only if it doesn’t stretch the squad’s resources too thinly. Entries for next year’s Monte Carlo Rally are set to close on Friday.

Loeb did however return to the cockpit of the Puma last weekend when he took part in a demonstration at the Red Bull Racing Formula 1 team’s title celebration event in Milton Keynes.

“Obviously we would like to have Seb in the car but I think that is going to be difficult for Monte Carlo, but we won't stop trying,” Millener told Autosport.

“At the moment we have to put all our resources into Ott and that is where we have got to be realistic.

“It will be a funding thing,” Millener replied, when asked about the negotiations with Loeb. “To have two drivers at the top level that come with reasonable but big price tags.

 

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

“There is no point pushing ourselves too hard. If we are going to go for a championship with one person then we have already clearly said that is going to be Ott and that is where we have got to start strongly.

“As much as we want Seb in the car and love to have him in the team, we have to find the opportunities where we are able to do that with the correct resource.”

Loubet in the frame for M-Sport drive

Pierre-Louis Loubet remains firmly in contention to secure a Rally1 deal with the team for 2023 following his impressive partial campaign this year.

The 25-year-old emerged as the WRC’s surprise package during a seven-round programme with the Ford squad.

Loubet notched up his first WRC stages wins and led a rally for the first time on merit in Greece, before going on to finish fourth, one of two fourth place finishes in 2022, that eclipsed his previous best WRC result of seventh.

Last weekend Loubet contested Rallye National Hivernal du Devoluy, a local rally in France alongside Thierry Neuville’s former co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul. Loubet is considering partnering with Gilsoul after long-time co-driver Vincent Landais’ decision to team up with eight-time world champion Sebastien Ogier next year.

“Pierre-Louis is doing a rally [last weekend] with Nicolas Gilsoul so he is keen to see what the relationship can be like between them with Vincent Landais going to work with Seb [Ogier],” added Millener.

“It would be great to have Pierre-Louis back in the team. He is not stopping his rallying at the moment but there is no official news yet as to what programme he will have next year."

Millener also confirmed that discussions with Gus Greensmith are expected to commence this week “to understand what we can do with him for the season”, while it appears Adrien Fourmaux could be set for a Rally2 programme next year.

Oliver Solberg has also been linked to a Rally1 drive with M-Sport although the Swede is also working on plans for a Rally2 programme as a back-up.

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