Sébastien Loeb will play no further part in the fourth round of the World Rally Championship, Rally Portugal, his M-Sport team has confirmed to DirtFish.
Nine-time world champion won on his M-Sport debut back at the Monte Carlo Rally and returned to WRC action this week for his first gravel start in a Puma Rally1.
He led the rally after the first four stages but on the very first corner of Friday afternoon, he understeered into a wall and broke his rear-right suspension.
Loeb restarted on Saturday as the first car on the road but would only get through two stages – and one cleanly – as his M-Sport Ford developed a mechanical fault.
He estimated he had only 100bhp available towards the end of the stage and inevitably Loeb and Isabelle Galmiche were forced to retire for the second time in as many days on the road section after SS11.
Speaking to DirtFish, M-Sport team principal Richard Millener explained that there were advantages to the team for not sending Loeb back out on Sunday.
“There’s advantages to if you retire, you get your engine transmission link,” Millener said.
“You have the option of a new transmission link, or your free joker transmission link and engine for the season.”
Although Loeb won’t be competing on Rally Italy in two weeks time, his Puma Rally1 will be making the trip and M-Sport has therefore thought tactically, freeing up the possibility for a new transmission link or engine to be fitted to the car without it impeding its joker allowances for the season.
“You just get that added bit of extra flexibility,” Millener added.
It isn’t clear when Loeb will next be back in the WRC, but he’s understood to be heading to Africa for Safari Rally Kenya on June 23-26.
This weekend is his first pointless WRC start since the same rally three years ago when Loeb broke the rear suspension of his Hyundai on the powerstage.