DirtFish can confirm Sébastien Loeb will test a Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid in France on Thursday – adding yet more weight to the expectation that he will make his debut with the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team at January’s Monte Carlo Rally.
The nine-time champion drove the British team’s all-new car for first time in Spain last month. Having completed that single day on asphalt, negotiations between Loeb, M-Sport and Red Bull have continued, but agreement on a program has yet to be confirmed.
M-Sport remains tight-lipped on any possible deal, but did confirm Loeb would return to the car this week.
The coming week is a further stage in the Puma’s development – but given that Loeb will be busy on Dakar when M-Sport starts its Monte pre-event test, this coming week would have to double as Loeb’s final set-up running should he join the team.
As a seven-time Monte Carlo winner, Loeb would bring vast experience, not to mention the ability and reputation as the sport’s most successful ever driver, with him.
M-Sport’s lead driver for next season Craig Breen has already talked of the benefits of a potential Loeb deal.
“It’s always going to be a benefit if there’s somebody with more experience than me coming,” Breen told DirtFish. “I don’t know what the team’s plans are for next year, but if I’m the most experienced driver – and I don’t have masses of time in the sport – it wouldn’t see it as a bad thing if that [Loeb driving for M-Sport] did happen.
“Money can’t buy experience and you just can’t beat it. It would be a massive help.”