It’s quite befitting that Pierre-Louis Loubet’s World Rally Championship season, that has yielded just one points-scoring finish, should end in a bizarre accident away from the rally stages.
In some respects Loubet was fortunate to escape with just a broken hip after being hit by a car last week, but in many other respects he was completely unfortunate to have been hit – through no fault of his own – and forced to cull his WRC campaign two rounds early.
“I was with my friend in a restaurant and when I go out, I crossed the road, a normal road in Paris, and at this moment a guy from my left was coming too fast and it was impossible to avoid him,” Loubet explains to DirtFish.
“At this moment, I had been able to do a small jump to not be completely broken. [But] I rolled on his car and the impact was quite hard.
“I have been able to be back at home [from hospital] the day after,” he added, “the only thing I have to do is stay at home and not move.”
Thankfully Loubet is on the mend, but the incident has brought a rather abrupt end to a season he would probably rather forget.
2021 was supposed to be his first full season in the WRC with a World Rally Car, but he will end up completing just eight of the 12 events. And on seven of those rallies, he had significant problems.
“Maybe it’s better if it stops now. Sometimes it’s not the worst thing,” Loubet says, philosophically, of his season.
“If that [accident]’s happened, I hope it’s for some reason so if I can start thinking about next year and be really focused on my future and start to work now that’s the best thing to do.
“For sure I think I will not be the guy who watches Spain, because when you’re at home and you look from your sofa it’s the worst thing in the world. But maybe I will look at tennis more than rallying for sure.”
Loubet is in need of a detox, as 2021 has been a miserable affair. The statistics are fairly appalling with just two finishes inside the top 20 and a total of six points in the championship. Four drivers have amassed more in less powerful Rally2 cars.
But as always, numbers don’t tell the full story. Loubet believes his true performance has been masked by various limiting factors, including the fact his Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC from 2C Competition isn’t the same i20 Coupe WRC Thierry Neuville is driving, but instead the same one Neuville was piloting before the word ‘coronavirus’ meant anything.
In Lapland I was really happy about my pace because in the first stage we did the sixth timePierre-Louis Loubet
“It’s been so strange first of all because it started not so bad in Monte Carlo, it was my very first time and we were able to do top five times on the [Saturday] morning on very tricky stages, so sometimes it was working not so bad,” Loubet reasons.
“In Lapland [Arctic Rally Finland] I was really happy about my pace because in the first stage we did the sixth time I think, 0.7s behind Evans or something like that. After that I had an issue with the turbo and we opened the road during the two days after that and we always had 0.5s [per kilometer gap] from the lead [on each stage] when I was opening the road, I was really, really happy about that.
“And after that [in] Croatia the times were not so bad, not perfect, and I did a very big mistake. From this moment everything went wrong.”
Loubet was a fighting sixth overall in Croatia, splitting the two M-Sport Fords before he slid wide and ditched his Hyundai. In Portugal, competing with a new co-driver Florian Haut-Labourdette, he crashed on the second stage. In Italy he picked up a mechanical issue at the end of the second day while on the Acropolis his steering broke.
The 24-year-old confesses he “did three big mistakes” (on the Monte, Croatia and Portugal) but admits it is “so difficult to understand” why “sometimes it was me, sometimes the car, but on every race something happened”.
“On eight races if you count, [there were] three mistakes from me, three or four mistakes about the car and after that you have only one good race,” Loubet says.
“And the only good one, Estonia, we were completely out of the pace with the set-up of the car.”
Loubet’s season has perhaps then been misconstrued. He’ll be the first to admit he hasn’t been impeccable, but lazily looking at things at face value instead of digging a little deeper can create a false picture.
“The problem I don’t like this year is journalists speak about me a lot, like ‘aw it’s for this reason [he’s not doing well]’ but they don’t know the truth,” argues Loubet.
“And first of all they never ask me anything, they read about me some stupid things and that I didn’t like. After that the people who speak on social media it’s normal because they can do that, and now it’s our society: everybody speaks on everything. This I don’t mind.
“But when the professional people speak when they don’t know, I don’t like that. But this is the sport, I can’t do anything about this. It’s good if I can say the truth, but it’s been in a certain moment more difficult for my family and the people around me than for me, because for me honestly I don’t look at the social media, I don’t care. For me that doesn’t change a lot of things.
“What is more terrible is the fact you fight all your life to be in WRC and when you are there you are not able to show your potential, that’s what’s terrible for me.”
The silver lining is that things are at least looking good for a WRC program in 2022. Loubet was quick to point out “it’s too early” for him to tell DirtFish too much, but he’s sure he’ll be on the stages next year.
“We have something,” he says. “In the [next] few months I hope it will be done, but for sure I will be there next year so that is the most important [thing].”