M-Sport team principal Richard Millener has praised the team’s dream start to this week’s Monte Carlo Rally, where Sébastien Loeb leads on his debut aboard a Ford Puma Rally1.
The Cumbrian-built cars held four of the top six places early in this first rally in the inaugural hybrid era of the World Rally Championship. Nine-time world champion Loeb – who only landed into the event after finishing second on Dakar earlier this month – hit the front with the perfect run of three Friday morning stage wins and has continued that form into the afternoon.
“As you can imagine, we’re pretty well over the moon with the event so far,” Millener told DirtFish. “You could definitely say this one has been a dream start.
“Sébastien’s pace is superb. To come here and do this after more than year out of a World Rally Car demonstrates both his ability and the speed and potential of this car.
“We’re really happy to hear what Séb is saying about the balance of the car and that he’s comfortable in it straightaway – that’s even more impressive when you consider how little testing he’s done.”
Leader Loeb told DirtFish: “I’m really happy from what we did in the morning. I feel well in this car compared to the previous one [the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC]. I can feel really confident and my gravel crew made some good work too.
“The stages are not easy, they are dry but there are some very slippery places and you have to adapt your rhythm. At the moment we are here and I am happy.”
Loeb’s team-mates Craig Breen and Gus Greensmith are fifth and seventh respectively, while Adrien Fourmaux crashed spectacularly out of the rally on the morning’s opener.
“Craig and Gus are on a different agenda to Sébastien,” Millener added. “Craig’s never been here in a World Rally Car and to expect him to be immediately at the front is unrealistic and Gus isn’t at that point in his career where we are expecting him to be winning stages on the Monte Carlo Rally.
“Both of those guys are doing the job.”