Pierre-Louis Loubet will get his first taste of M-Sport’s Puma Rally1 this week, competing on the South Belgian Rally as one of the event’s course cars.
Loubet has committed to a seven-round World Rally Championship campaign with M-Sport in 2022, starting with next month’s Rally Croatia.
Previously he drove for 2C Competition in a Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC but hasn’t competed since last September, following a traffic accident in Paris.
The South Belgian Rally gives Loubet the opportunity to both get back into a rally car again and sample the new Rally1 machine.
“Honestly it’s amazing to start there,” Loubet told DirtFish. “I see the roads on the video from the organizer and it’s really nice, it’s a bit like in Croatia; it’s not like a Belgian and muddy race. It’s nice Tarmac and nice, nice roads so very, very happy to start there.
“As you know I haven’t tested for a long time, I didn’t have a car like this last year, so it will be a very good race for me because we will do it with no pressure but just to try to learn and to understand how this car is working.”
The car Loubet will use belongs to Jourdan Serderidis, who made history last weekend by becoming the first private driver to start – and win – an event in a Rally1 car, as he was victorious on Rallye de Hannut.
During a WRC event, you don't have so much time to analyze everything and to be sure of everythingPierre Louis-Loubet on the benefits of his zero car run
Loubet will shake the car down on Wednesday – something he admits will be “a great moment” as he hasn’t driven a rally car since last year’s Acropolis Rally.
It also gives him his first chance to work with Vincent Landais once more after the duo separated following Rally Croatia 11 months ago.
“I’m not worried about that, I know it will work, but it’s always better to start like this before a WRC event,” Loubet said.
“During a WRC event, you don’t have so much time to analyze everything and to be sure of everything. But doing a small race like this you have time to speak about some changes, some feeling between us and all this stuff so really, really happy to start there.”
While Loubet will be running as the zero car with no times being recorded, there will be plenty of competition on the South Belgian Rally as it’s the second round of the Belgian Rally Championship.
Last year’s champion Adrian Fernémont tops the entry ahead of former Citroën factory driver and current championship leader Stéphane Lefebvre.
Jos Verstappen – former Formula 1 driver and father of reigning F1 champion Max Verstappen – will make his second ever rally start after finishing eighth on last month’s Rally van Haspengouw in a Citroën C3 Rally2.