M-Sport Ford team principal Richard Millener has apologized to Pierre-Louis Loubet after a water pump problem, which also affected his team-mate Ott Tänak, ruled him out of Acropolis Rally Greece.
Loubet was eighth overall after Thursday night’s street stage in Athens, but was denied the chance to start any of Friday’s gravel due to with a water pump problem he had noticed on Thursday evening.
With no morning service, the issue was unable to be rectified and Loubet and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul were forced to park up their Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid before the start of SS2.
It was particularly galling for the Frenchman, who had targeted the Acropolis as an event to do well on given he took his first World Rally Championship stage win and led a WRC rally for the first time on the event 12 months ago.
Loubet’s car has now been retired from the entire event.
“We have had an issue with the water pump it would seem on both cars and it’s really frustrating and we feel really sorry for Pierre,” Millener told DirtFish.
“This is one of the events he chose this year to focus on and he’s not performed as he’d hoped himself a couple times this year and had got himself really motivated for this rally and didn’t even have a chance to do a gravel stage.
“We can only apologize to him and we all feel really terrible for letting him down, effectively.
“It’s been a pretty tough day, but OK Ott, a couple of stage wins after the boys worked really hard in the tire fitting zone with very limited resources to get things going was fantastic to see.
“But stage wins vs overall positions is never quite the same. It’s been tough.”
Tänak had been third overall before realizing he too was facing water pump trouble when checking into the tire fitting zone after the morning loop.
He explained to DirtFish: “Basically going into the tire fitting zone we were just working on the car, cleaning the mud and going in I started the engine but the water pump didn’t start.
“So we were overheating the engine immediately by idling there. In the tire fitting zone we tried to kick it a bit to somehow try to get it going again but that was not happening, and basically in the end there was a decision to just strip it down and open the water pump.
“This is already a big job, so we managed to open it, clean it and get it running again and now it’s in some kind of safety mode that it’s just running all the time. So like this we could get through the day but was a big job.”
Tänak believes he is “very lucky” to still be in the rally as with just 15 minutes and no proper service, it was a mammoth task to repair the part.
But his overriding feeling is of frustration that, for a third rally in a row, he has been hit with some mechanical trouble.
“To be honest [I’m] not in a happy place at the moment,” Tänak said.
“I’m sure all the team feels the same. We’ve had far too many events like this this year and can’t say that we are super motivated looking to the next stage.
“But we need to keep going, so that’s the job we need to do.”
Millener added: “Expectation was obviously high at the start of the year and this [feeling of frustration and criticism] was always going to be the case should we not deliver on that.
“I can take the criticism where it’s due and today has been one of those days I think.”