This hasn’t been the year Pierre-Louis Loubet was looking for. It’s been a disaster, frankly, with just two sixth place finishes, in Sweden and Estonia, as his best results and finishing outside the top ten in the final championship standings.
The 26-year-old Frenchman’s season ended a rally short, giving up his seat in the Ford Puma Rally1 to fellow Frenchman Adrien Fourmaux in the season-ending Japanese event.
It’s fair to say it wasn’t all down to Loubet – when he was on song, M-Sport’s reliability woes hit him hardest…when the car was making contented whirring noises, it landed in the scenery.
With an earlier than planned holiday, Loubet needs to make the most of his time off and complete a 2023 Ctrl+Alt+Del, and reboot his hard drive for the year ahead. Last year he set three fastest times and led rallies for two stages. This year it’s one and one.
Rally Central Europe encapsulated Pierre-Louis’ season. 10th place and finishing 12 minutes off the lead after a whole bunch of issues, including a penalty for not having his helmet done up correctly (self-inflicted), stopping to change a wheel, some issues (not his fault) and a couple of excursions (self-inflicted again).
“It was a difficult rally,” he said. “And it’s been a difficult season. Even on Sunday morning there was some transmission, some clutch issues which caused something with the car and that made me make a small mistake.
“Next year I hope we can have some more luck, but, for now, I will go away and do a reset for the mind. This [year] has been tough, but I really want to do it again – I don’t think we have shown our full potential yet. I just need everything to go my way for that to happen.”
Pierre-Louis Loubet’s 2023 World Rally Championship was a disappointment in form after his impressive return the year before – but he knows he’s better than that.
As for handing his car over to a potential rival for his seat next year, that was a decision Loubet revealed was agreed two months ago at Acropolis Rally Greece, when he retired on the road section to Friday’s first stage.
“We decided with the team that it was better to stop at this point,” Loubet told DirtFish.
The 26-year-old has made his share of driver errors, most notably in Finland where he ran wide and struck a tree but also in Portugal where a small mistake lost him his rear wheel.
But he has borne the brunt of a lot of unfortunate circumstances such as mechanical misfortune and a change in co-driver with Benjamin Veillas replacing Nicolas Gilsoul for Central European Rally.
If M-Sport can get on top of the Puma’s mechanical issues and they’re generally minor irksome things like fuel pump failure, Loubet is sure he can perform much better in the future.
“Yeah, yeah very difficult [season],” Loubet admitted.
“I hope next year I will have a little bit more luck, that everything will go a bit more on my way.
“[The plan now is to] have a bit of rest, to try to do a reset on the mind-set because it’s been very tough and we will see.
“But I really want to do it again because I think we didn’t show enough in terms of result about our potential, and I’m sure if I have everything in my head and everything around me to do, I can do it.
“I know [I can do it], I just need to have everything on my way.”
With M-Sport losing their star driver, who would bet against a Fourmaux/Loubet partnership next season?