M-Sport “very sorry” for Loubet’s early WRC Acropolis Rally exit

M-Sport team principal Richard Millener feels they let driver Pierre-Louis Loubet down after a mechanical issue ended his rally before the Acropolis Rally’s first gravel stage.

Pierre-Louis Loubet, Nicolas Gilsoul, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1

The Ford squad endured another challenging start to a World Rally Championship event as water pump issues ended Loubet’s and Ott Tanak’s hopes of a strong points haul.

Loubet retired from the rally when his Puma ground to a halt on a road section before stage two, the first proper test of the rally.

The Frenchman will not re-join the rally having only completed Thursday night's super special.

Tanak was sitting fourth when he encountered a problem with a water pump during a tyre fitting zone. The problem was fixed but the Estonian left the zone 22 minutes late, incurring a 3m40s penalty.

Tanak was able to score two stage wins on Friday afternoon to haul himself back to eighth overall, but is 3m34.5s behind rally later Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville.

The issues have come as a bitter pill for the team having sat first and second at the Acropolis Rally on Friday this time last year.

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Reflecting on a challenging day, Millener said: “Firstly we feel very sorry for Pierre-Louis, he definitely targeted this rally as one of his for the season where he knows he can be very strong and he hasn’t been able to do one stage.

“I don’t think there is any defence from our side on that. We have let him down there and we are very sorry for that.

“It is not through lack of effort from everybody to make sure we are doing the best job. It is just not working at the moment for us and that has been really tricky for him.

Rich Millener, Team principal M-Sport Ford Rally

Rich Millener, Team principal M-Sport Ford Rally

Photo by: M-Sport

“He came for the result this weekend and that is not possible so they made the decision, and are quite disappointed obviously, not to continue for the rest of the weekend. I can understand their position.

“The mechanics did all they could in the tyre fitting zone to try and and get what seems like a similar issue on Ott’s car sorted and managed to do so, and a couple of stage wins is nice, but obviously it is not really what we hope for from a bigger picture point of view.

“There is not much we can say that will change any position that we are in and we will keep battling away and take any criticism which is fair in some ways. We have got to keep working as best as we can.”

Millener confirmed to Autosport that both cars were fitted with brand new water pumps for the rally.

“We go through the same processes every rally,” he added.

“You could ague we didn’t have a shakedown here [due to the weather], so maybe we would have spotted something at that point, but you can’t say that is the reason. We have to go away and have a look, I don’t know the cause of what’s happened because we haven’t seen the cars.

“These are brand new parts that we are having issues with. It is frustrating for us all.”

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