Sébastien Loeb doesn’t plan to return for the final day of action on Acropolis Rally Greece, having retired from the lead with a broken alternator on Saturday morning.
Monte Carlo Rally winner Loeb had ended Pyrgos, Saturday’s first stage, with a 19-second lead over Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville.
But approaching the stop control of the stage, Loeb’s Ford Puma Rally1 came to a shuddering halt, stalling moments after a low battery warning flashed up on his dashboard.
Unable to fix the alternator problem that had triggered the drained battery, Loeb and co-driver Isabelle Galmchie retired after the SS8 finish control.
While the problem could be fixed by M-Sport’s mechanics for Sunday, Loeb had little interested in heading back out on Sunday.
“Three stages, cleaning the road…” he said when queried about returning for the final day.
With no championship battle in play for either Loeb or M-Sport, powerstage points offered little incentive to restart either: “To take the points to who?” Loeb queried.
It’s also worth considering that M-Sport only has four days to reprep its Puma Rally1s before shipping off to New Zealand for the rally at the end of the month, so that was likely also a factor.
There had been a 38-minute gap between crossing the finish line on SS8 and the required check-in time for SS9, with a seven-mile liaison section to complete in between.
That left Loeb and Galmiche with very little time to attempt to get the errant alternator belt back onto its pulley, as too many other parts needed to be removed to access it.
“It was very difficult to access [the alternator]; we had to take off the inside of the wheel, the protection, then from the top I had to remove the big fan,” Loeb explained.
“But to remove this one I had to disconnect the tube between the turbo and the intercooler. And then I had also to take off some other things. So at the end, we were out of time.”
Despite realizing he wouldn’t make the next stage before running out of time and being automatically retired from the rally for exceeding maximum lateness, Loeb picked up tools anyway and continued working.
“Finally I decided to continue after, to finish the job correctly, so I take off everything and make the alternator loose to be able to put the belt and make it strong.
“Then I finished the job, rebuilt everything, and started. It was downhill so we could start by rolling.
“Engine started, 200 meters, switch off. I checked and the belt had jumped off again.”
As it transpired, all of Loeb’s hard work hadn’t paid off and even if he’d got the belt back on in time, he would have still retired anyway.
“I think the bearing of the alternator broke,” Loeb surmized. “The two wheels were not in the same position and I think the alternator was not turning. So it was blocked and when the engine was running, the belts jumped off.”
Loeb’s retirement was his third form his four WRC starts this season. In Portugal he crashed into a wall when leading (before an engine problem manifested itself the following day) while in Kenya an oil leak forced to him stop when just 1.9s off the lead.