Loubet retires from Acropolis with technical issue

The M-Sport driver was unable to start Friday morning's first stage

WhatsApp Image 2023-09-08 at 06.48.29

Pierre-Louis Loubet has retired from Acropolis Rally Greece, failing to start SS2 with a technical problem aboard his Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid.

It may have been a much-desired dry start to Friday on Acropolis Rally Greece, but it was also a dramatic one with a retirement before the action even began.

The cancelation of shakedown left many drivers firmly with the focus of just trying to get used to driving a rally car on gravel roads again, and M-Sport’s Loubet did not even get to experience that as he was struggling to get his Ford Puma Rally1 started before even reaching the day’s opening test.

Not only was he without a solution, but also could not even identify his car’s problem despite phoning his M-Sport colleagues in the service park, and he became a retiree before even turning a wheel in anger.

The pre-event rain may have not left sticky mud on the 6.44 miles of Loutraki but did cause the roads to rut and deform in a way that exposed bedrock and caused very uneven bumps. Loubet got to avoid that challenge, while Esapekka Lappi was almost sent airborne by one such bump.

First in was championship leader Kalle Rovanperä, who seemed unfussed about the road cleaning he was having to do, then Toyota team mate Elfyn Evans came through 1.3 seconds faster despite his rear-right tire coming slightly off the rim.

Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville was next in and he commented on the impact the lack of shakedown was having. But he had little to complain about as he went fastest by 4.2s. Ott Tänak and then Sébastien Ogier advantage reduced his advantage slightly, with Toyota’s Ogier 3.4s off the pace and M-Sport’s Tänak moving into second place overall behind Neuville.

There was even more drama once the Rally2 crews hit SS2, with WRC2 leader Andreas Mikkelsen finishing Loutraki with a totally torn-up left-rear corner of his car and a tire that had delaminated in an extreme way. What had caused it?

“You tell me. Two kilometers after the start, not hit anything, just started to lose pressure, pressure, pressure, and then it delaminated,” he said at stage-end.

Title rival Oliver Solberg also struck trouble, almost coming to a stop multiple times and losing over three minutes to the pace-setting Sami Pajari with a fuel pressure problem.

“It stopped and go, stopped and go [throughout],” said Solberg. “We’ve had the problem before, but not fixed anyway.”