M-Sport Ford team principal Richard Millener believes Pierre-Louis Loubet’s powertrain issue on Rally Sweden’s powerstage acts as a “good showcase” of the World Rally Championship’s hybrid regulations.
The hybrid element was added to the top tier of rallying at the start of 2022 for the birth of the Rally1 regulations, with each car fitted with a 100kW hybrid until supplied by Compact Dynamics.
That means that WRC cars can now travel in electric-mode only and indeed there are sections on the route of each rally – known as HEV (hybrid electric vehicle) zones – which crews must pass through without their internal-combustion engines active.
During last week’s Rally Sweden, M-Sport driver Loubet was on course for a solid sixth place finish after sticking to his pre-event mission of avoiding any drama and mistakes.
But towards the end of the rally’s 18th and final test, his Ford Puma Rally1 suddenly lost power and Loubet briefly stopped with the suspicion something may be on fire.
Out of the car with the extinguisher, he and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul soon realized the car was safe but still needed to get to the end of the stage.
However, because he had the electric motor to rely on, Loubet was able to do just that and drove the final couple of miles of the powerstage in EV-mode only.
With the stage finishing right outside the service park, Loubet was also able to reach the final time control without the need to use his ICE.
Millener believes that this wouldn’t have been possible had the WRC not made its hybrid switch.
“Unfortunately, it looked like they had some kind of powertrain issue which we need to investigate,” Millener said when asked what happened to Loubet.
“But the important thing is he has got to the end of the event which is great for him. I think it was a good showcase of EV.
“Honestly, we would not have been able to finish the stage previously, so it’s a great example of how we are moving the championship forward.
“But obviously not the way we wanted to finish,” he added, “but I think it was important for Pierre to have a strong weekend on a surface he is not overly confident on.
“And now we go into the more normal kind of events, gravel and Tarmac events that we expect him to be stronger on. It’s great for him to get this weekend out of the way.”
Despite the last stage dramas which heavily contributed to him finishing one second shy of six minutes down on his rally-winning team-mate, Loubet feels there were “a lot of positives to take from this weekend”.
He said: “I first want to say a huge congratulations to Ott [Tänak], Martin [Järveoja] and the rest of the team. This weekend has been a huge achievement for M-Sport, and I am very glad to be a part of it.
“I think I have a lot of positives to take from this weekend; Friday was a good day, and we spent a lot of time on the pace of the guys at the front.
“We also achieved a second-fastest time and considering I don’t have a lot of experience on snow-and-ice, I think we can be very happy with this.
“Sometimes we lacked the confidence to really push the car, and this is where we lost some time, but overall, I am happy.
“It was a challenge, but we have learnt a lot, and now we look forward to a different challenge in Mexico.”