Pierre-Louis Loubet’s first rally of the 2023 World Rally Championship was eventful to say the least.
Although he had a tentative opening few stages he quickly built up his pace, closing the gap to the frontrunners in little time, before having his Friday progress halted after the power-steering broke on his Puma Rally1.
Despite the issue, he heroically pushed on to complete the day but had further drama on Saturday, crashing out of the rally on the opening stage of the day after sliding on some ice and hitting a bridge.
And if he was hoping for a more straightforward Sunday, nothing could be further from the truth after the water pump failed on his car, forcing him to retire for a second time.
It many ways it could be seen as a disappointing rally for Loubet, but the M-Sport driver doesn’t look at his result in the same light.
“No, no, no because you have some weekends where you are out of the pace, that is more terrible than anything else,” he explained to DirtFish.
“I think in terms of pace in the powerstage everybody pushed on the first pass, so I feel where we were and our position was quite strong because like I said, we were the only one with the good tires.
“Everyone was fighting for position so we came back from our one day off so everybody was there to do very strong things for the second pass.
“But one thing is sure we didn’t give up because after the water pump we did a road section without power-steering again, without fuel, without engine with the EV.
“We tried until the end and after five minutes it was impossible to continue so it’s why I’m the most disappointed.
“It’s much more about that because we tried so hard and at the end not even a point.
“But like I said, if you told me last week that pace-wise on the first Monte that I will be able to be with Ott [Tänak, team-mate], OK I sign immediately.
“He did the rally last year, I know the car but he knows the stages not me so for that I’m happy.”
It’s a feeling echoed by M-Sport founder Malcolm Wilson. Although the end result was disappointing, he was impressed with the pace that Loubet displayed in the stages he completed without issue.
“I’m disappointed for Pierre-Louis, he’s for me again shown great pace,” said Wilson.
He even admitted that he wasn’t expecting Loubet to be so fast so soon.
“Yeah, I have to say,” was Wilson’s response on Sunday afternoon when asked if Loubet’s pace was a surprise.
“I mean the first split even on Turini this morning, he was quickest.”
Loubet had the most dramatic rally of anyone on Monte, but in many ways he demonstrated the potential that M-Sport sees in him.
His never give up attitude is one of those attributes that will have really impressed Wilson and Richard Millener. Many drivers would have called it a day at the end of Friday morning, especially since there was no midday service, but not Loubet.
Even on Sunday when the water pump failed, he still tried to make his way to the next stage, and only retired at the last possible moment when time ran out.
That attitude bodes well, but so does his pace. He was fast and if he hadn’t had a power-steering failure on Friday, there’s every chance he would have been fighting for a top five result.
His result might not showcase just how strong a performance it was for Loubet, but it will have given M-Sport plenty more confidence that attacking this year’s WRC season with just two cars was the right one.