Loeb to contest third WRC event of 2022 in Kenya

The nine-time world champion will go head-to-head with Sébastien Ogier in his first Safari Rally in 20 years

Sébastien Loeb

Sébastien Loeb will return to the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team for next month’s Safari Rally, lining up a third head-to-head of the season between himself and fellow French world champion Sébastien Ogier.

Loeb edged Ogier to victory at the season-opening Monte Carlo Rally before they both went off the road at last week’s Rally Portugal. Nine-time champion Loeb led after the first loop of stages around Arganil before hitting a wall on the afternoon’s opener.

M-Sport’s megastar Frenchman is now looking forward to an African return 20 years on from his one and only previous Safari start. The good news for the Alsatian is that he goes with a competitive car beneath him.

“For sure,” he said, “it was nice to see we were competitive in Portugal with the Puma, which was nice, it is good to know the Puma is very fast and competitive on gravel.

Sébastien Loeb

“Kenya is something very different to Portugal, I don’t know the current version of the [Safari] rally. I have seen some videos of the stages which are very different, they appear to be rough with very big stones.

“Kenya is quite amazing ­– I think it’s the rally from where I have the most memories.

“At that time Kenya was very different, the longest stage was 120 kilometres, and we all had a helicopter over our cars announcing all the wildlife that we were approaching on the stage. Now it is very different and is more like a typical WRC rally, it is easier to do it this way but the difference for me compared to Portugal is I have no experience of these stages.

“It is always much more complicated when you arrive to a rally where you have never done the stages before, it will not make it easy, but I am really happy to be going.”

Loeb Sébastien

M-Sport Ford team principal Rich Millener added: “The team is thrilled to have Séb and Isabelle [Galmiche, co-driver] back with us again, on what is one of the most iconic events of the season. This is only our second time back in Kenya since the event re-joined the WRC, and me and the team are looking forward to returning with a four-strong fleet of Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1s.

“Séb obviously has a fantastic track record on gravel events. His performance on Monte Carlo and Portugal, while it lasted, showed us what both he and this car are capable of. With Safari Rally still a fairly new edition to the rally calendar, we have a pretty even playing field and think with Séb in the team we can really show everyone what the Puma can do.

“It’s always fantastic having Séb with us, the atmosphere it brings to the service park but also his drive and motivation is unparalleled, and something we all thrive off.”