Loubet is finally showing what he’s capable of

Portugal was the M-Sport driver's most complete WRC performance to date


Come on, be honest, how many of you had Pierre-Louis Loubet down in your pre-Rally Portugal predictions as the highest classified M-Sport driver?

I think I can maybe hear one, very quiet voice at the back. But given there were four other Puma Rally1s in Portugal, and one of them driven by Sébastien Loeb, you’d have been either very brave or incredibly good at seeing the future to foresee Loubet taking such an accolade.

Of course Portugal was a bit of a disaster for M-Sport as the team was beset by a number of reliability issues, none of the drivers optimized their tire strategy and Loeb even uncharacteristically put it into the wall.

But don’t let that detract from Loubet’s performance. It proved, unequivocally, that he’s a very capable rally driver that can only get better with even more seat time.

The end result, seventh, equaled his best in the World Rally Championship but this was, by some distance, his most complete performance to date at the top level.

Amidst a chaotic Friday, it was hard to keep track of how many of the drivers performed well but Loubet made fantastic use of his road position (10th) to set the third-fastest time straight out the box on Friday, and then claim second-best on Lousã and Góis 2 to rocket from 10th overall to fourth.

But for a wild moment on Friday’s final forest stage where he hit a bank and then hit an adjacent one when trying to escape amidst his own dust cloud, Loubet could very feasibly have been in the top four overnight.

The decision to go on full hard tires on Saturday, coupled with a spin, spoiled any charge from sixth and instead he slipped back to eighth overall as the charging Hyundais of Thierry Neuville and Ott Tänak made their way back up the order.


A steering problem, compounded by the same brake issue that slowed team-mate Craig Breen, made Sunday a day to simply survive, but that’s exactly what Loubet did.

Given this was only his second event in an M-Sport Puma and second since his injury last year, it was deeply impressive. Most of the problems he encountered were simply signs of inexperience which you absolutely cannot hold against him.

Finally, after two incredibly frustrating seasons in an out-of-date 2C Hyundai, Loubet is now able to prove his worth in the WRC. Adrien Fourmaux may well have some competition in the M-Sport ranks as the team’s most exciting young Frenchman.

“I think the pace was there and for sure we did some mistakes on Friday with the tire choice, so after that it was quite difficult to be close to the top five,” Loubet told DirtFish.


“But anyway we had some issues on Sunday morning and we got through to the end. In the last one we had the same issue as Criag so I was happy to be at the end because with no brakes it was difficult. 

“But I think we can be really happy with the pace when everything was going well. The team did an amazing car that is sure, so I enjoyed a lot to drive.”

It all points to the obvious question, what might be possible in Sardinia?

Loubet will again have a good starting position, starting ahead of only his team-mate Fourmaux, and has some tangible experience to call upon.

“I think we are capable to have the speed, but now we need the consistency, the reliability. But that will come step by step,” he said.

“A podium, I don’t know [if that’s possible] because you see it’s close. Like I said, it’s consistency [that I need]. 

“I think we can have the speed sometimes to catch the top but to be all the time in the top three, let’s see. I will try but top five would be a very good result.


“I think what’s important is to not push too much when I don’t feel [comfortable],” Loubet added. 

“I need to go with my feeling and I’m sure it will come because I know I can win. In some stages [in Portugal] we did some really good times, I knew it was possible to be faster which is really important.”

Don’t be as shocked if Loubet gives Breen, Fourmaux and Gus Greensmith a good run for their money next weekend.