How did Hyundai’s new star really do in Estonia?

Loubet flew then retired on his biggest chance yet, but should be proud says David Evans


For a Bastia-born rally driver, deep ends don’t come much deeper than Estonia. Pierre-Louis Loubet comes from Corsica and grew up around its 10,000 asphalt corners, largely estranged from the top half of a car’s gearbox.

Taking his bow at rallying’s very highest level on gravel roads where the bottom half of the gearbox was largely redundant wasn’t the most straightforward of operations.

Not that you’d have known it on Saturday night at the end of day one at Rally Estonia. He sat ninth overall, roughly half a minute adrift of both M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Finns. That impressive debut was undone when he broke a steering rod on Sunday’s second stage. Despite the early bath, he departed Estonia with his head held high.

“I know where I have to improve, but for my first time in these conditions I was happy with the pace on some of the stages,” he told DirtFish.

“I am satisfied with the speed we showed, but I need to take more confidence, but it was more difficult than I thought it would be to come here for the first time and to drive this car on the fast gravel roads.

“Probably to make my debut in the world championship on gravel, it would be a little bit easier to go somewhere like Portugal or Sardinia. You need to take so much confidence for rallies like this one. I know when I lift in some places and you have one kilometer flat out then I have lost already three seconds.

“But I also know I am very lucky to be here in a World Rally Car and I’m not here to complain. It’s amazing to be able to drive this car!”

Loubet tackled two Italian rallies in the summer, impressing with second place on the Rally di Roma and third at Rally di Alba aboard an asphalt-spec Hyundai i20. Ahead of last week’s Rally Estonia, he completed 60 miles of testing in his entry car on Monday.

“I have some idea what to expect in Turkey and Sardinia,” said Loubet.

“And those events will be better. I want to do better. I’m not looking at anybody else, I just want to keep improving and keep getting better and better to reduce the gap to the guys at the front.”

Loubet will tackle all remaining rounds of this year’s WRC before taking on most rallies next year.

Words:David Evans

Photo:Hyundai Motorsport