M-Sport managing director Malcolm Wilson would love Sébastien Loeb to do a full World Rally Championship season in a Puma Rally1 next year but concedes another part-time campaign is far more feasible.
Throughout Loeb’s title-winning pomp between 2004-2012, he competed directly against Wilson’s M-Sport squad. Although Ford won the manufacturers’ championship in 2006 and 2007, it didn’t win a drivers’ title when Loeb was actively competing.
But Loeb was enticed back to the WRC this year at the dawn of the new hybrid Rally1 era, winning the season-opening Monte Carlo Rally on his M-Sport debut.
For sure he will not want to do a whole championship, which is something that would appeal to usMalcolm WIlson on enticing Loeb back to M-Sport for 2023
It’s proved to be M-Sport’s highlight of the season by far, with Craig Breen’s second place on Rally Italy the only other rally a Puma has made the podium.
Next week’s Acropolis Rally Greece will be Loeb’s fourth (and final) WRC appearance of the season, but there’s currently no agreement in place for next year.
Wilson is keen to address that, as he now has a deeper appreciation of what makes the nine-time champion so special.
“For me, now I really appreciate why we lost nine championships to him,” Wilson told DirtFish.
“You’ve got to think when we were competing with him at that level, he was in his 30s. Now he’s 48 years old and he’s still doing it.
“So to be honest, I feel quite proud of what we achieved when he won those nine consecutive championships because we took him very close. And now, of course, working with him you realize how good he is and he’s even 10 years older.
“I have to say honestly I’m lost for words as to how he can still do what he does when he gets in the car.
“But I think the big thing is he enjoys driving and he loves the car. He’s so relaxed when he’s driving and you can see it in the performance.
“You’ve just got to look at the events that he did and what he did for us when he was there, leading Portugal and then just had a fantastic time in Kenya.
“So we know how much he enjoys driving the car and that’s the crucial thing.”
Asked if Loeb was enjoying it enough to come back for more in 2023, Wilson admitted it’s “early days” but said “it’s no secret I would like to try and find a way to get him to do more events”.
“For sure he will not want to do a whole championship,” Wilson continued, “which is something that would appeal to us, but if we can get him for a few events then for sure we would look at it.”
Loeb is currently a Prodrive contracted driver, competing with Bahrain Raid Xtreme in the World Cross Country Championship and, in turn, Extreme E with X44 as Prodrive runs that operation.
Such commitments would be an obvious stumbling block for M-Sport if it wanted to pin Loeb down to a more serious program, as is the question of whether Loeb has any desire to do so.
But Wilson’s negotiation skills are legendary, so if anybody can convince Loeb, surely it’s him.
Wilson laughed at DirtFish’s question: “No, I think he’s got other work commitments and to be honest I don’t think he’d want to do a full season.
“He’s probably like Séb Ogier, it’s going to be a hard year with the close proximity of the events and next year probably an extra event will be involved so it’s going to be quite difficult.”