Pierre-Louis Loubet will compete with the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team full next season as a manufacturer-registered points scorer.
Loubet joined M-Sport on a part-time European-only season in 2022 after a difficult period in a 2C Compétition Hyundai.
But he rebuilt his reputation in a Puma Rally1 – scoring a brace of fourth place finishes in Italy and Greece and winning his first WRC stage (and leading the rally) on the latter.
Speaking about the drive, Loubet said: “It’s a dream come true for me, something that I have been dreaming about since I was a kid. To do my first full season, and to do the main passion in my life every weekend is something truly fantastic.
“The full season takes off a lot of pressure because I know that I have 13 events to give me chance to show all my potential, and gives me the space to grow and learn. In 2023, my most important goal will be to finish every event, to gain experience and learn to know where we can push and go for maximum speed.
“To be an official driver and scoring manufacturer points for M-Sport is something I have always wanted, I am so pleased that M-Sport is believing in me like this. A huge thank you to Malcolm and Rich who have done fantastic work for me. I’m so pleased to be working with M-Sport again, and to work alongside Ott as teammates is something very special.”
It will be Loubet’s first full-time campaign as a WRC driver. As revealed by DirtFish on Monday, he will be co-driven by Thierry Neuville’s old co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul.
Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja are the only other confirmed crew to drive an M-Sport Ford next season.
But an announcement on the rest of the lineup should follow soon as entries for round one, the Monte Carlo Rally, close on Friday.
Nobody can say that Loubet doesn’t deserve this.
It would’ve been very easy for him to throw in the towel after such a disastrous 2021 season where most of the rallying world had written him off. But he knew there were mitigating factors at play, and he was determined to prove what he was worth.
2022 absolutely did that. The program was sensible – half the season – and the team with which he worked with (M-Sport) was ideal for getting the best out of him.
For him to lead a rally and win a pair of WRC stages was beyond what anybody had anticipated. As new co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul remarked to DirtFish earlier this week, his bounceback showed incredible mental resilience.
Gilsoul is a very sensible partner in crime for Loubet too. After a couple of years on the sidelines he’s fully motivated to get stuck into another WRC program, and can bring a lot to the table in terms of experience, composure and know-how.
With a full season ahead of him, Loubet can focus on just learning with no championship pressure – M-Sport’s championship push is very clearly going to be Tänak in the drivers’ title race.
Merry Christmas Pierre-Loubet. But this was no gift from Mr Claus, you fully earned this.