Nine-time World Rally champion Sébastien Loeb has revealed that he will not contest next month’s WRC season opening Monte Carlo Rally.
M-Sport, the team with whom Loeb racked up his 80th career victory on the same event last year, has registered three of its Puma Rally1 machines for the Monte.
But Loeb will not be at the start of the rally he made his own over the years, as the recce falls just one day after the end of the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia.
“I will not be doing Monte Carlo,” Loeb told DirtFish. “It’s even more complicated than last year because there was one day between the end of the Dakar and the recce. This year the Dakar is finishing on Sunday and the recce is on Monday morning so it’s even more tight.
“It would have been an option if there was a real plan in the WRC, but it doesn’t sound like I will do the full season so I will not go to Monte Carlo.”
“Even if I [retired from] stopped the Dakar and called a team and say, ‘OK I am going for the Monte Carlo, find me a car’, so it is more complicated than. Obviously, the plan is to finish the Dakar.”
Alongside full season drivers Ott Tänak and Pierre-Louis Loubet, M-Sport will run privateer Jourdain Serderidis on the Monte Carlo, with further outings in Mexico, Sardinia and Kenya also on the cards for the Greek driver.
It all points to a slightly toned down 2023 for Loeb, who is yet to confirm any full season plans for next year.
“Honestly, I’m not really sure what I will do,” said Loeb. “There are a lot of different options, but nothing is really confirmed. The Dakar is confirmed for sure, but after that we have the plan to for the world championship in cross-country but it’s not completely 100% decided.
“In WRC, it doesn’t seem like I will do a lot of that and in Extreme E, we also need to see what will happen.”
Gus Greensmith’s participation with M-Sport this season is also unclear.
He has had discussions with Toyota about driving a customer Yaris GR Rally1 car this year, but DirtFish understands it’s looking increasingly unlikely that switch will come to fruition.