UNITED KINGDOM - M-Sport Ford World Rally Team is thrilled to announce that Pierre-Louis Loubet will complete his first full season in the FIA World Rally Championship in a Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1.
After a fantastic showing in a part-time drive in 2022, Loubet proved his talent behind the wheel of a Puma to secure himself a full-time seat at M-Sport, alongside 2019 WRC Drivers’ Champion Ott Tänak. Loubet will also begin a new partnership with the vastly experienced co-driver, Nicolas Gilsoul, following a successful test event in France last week.
The young Frenchman impressed M-Sport with his strong pace and performance, featuring two career-best fourth place finishes and a maiden WRC stage win while leading his first ever event.
Loubet had already made his mark on the WRC2 category in his early career, which included a season with M-Sport in a Fiesta R5 before going on to claim the WRC2 championship title in 2019.
Loubet’s first Puma Rally1 outing was Croatia Rally in 2022, and from here his pace only grew stronger as the season continued. An exhilaratingly close podium battle in Sardinia saw Loubet fight against his full-season counterparts for the top spots, eventually ending the rally in a career-best fourth place overall.
His season highlight would come on Acropolis Rally Greece where, locked in a battle for the event lead with childhood hero, Sébastien Loeb, Loubet claimed his first two WRC stage wins, marking a crucial moment in his still inexperienced Rally1 career.
Gilsoul will make a welcome return to WRC’s top-level on Rally Monte-Carlo, marking his first event in top-flight machinery since 2020. He will also return to the seat of a Ford WRC car for the first time since 2013. The Belgian has built an impressive record in WRC that includes a total of 43 podiums and 13 victories.
Loubet and Gilsoul will look forward to a challenging but busy 2023 calendar in the Puma Hybrid Rally1 alongside their teammates Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja as the WRC launches a jam-packed schedule traversing five continents.
Pierre-Louis Loubet, said:
“It’s a dream come true for me, something that I have been dreaming about since I was a kid. To do my first full season, and to do the main passion in my life every weekend is something truly fantastic.
“The full season takes off a lot of pressure because I know that I have 13 events to give me chance to show all my potential, and gives me the space to grow and learn. In 2023, my most important goal will be to finish every event, to gain experience and learn to know where we can push and go for maximum speed.
"To be an official driver and scoring manufacturer points for M-Sport is something I have always wanted, I am so pleased that M-Sport is believing in me like this. A huge thank you to Malcolm and Rich who have done fantastic work for me. I’m so pleased to be working with M-Sport again, and to work alongside Ott as teammates is something very special.
“I would also like to say a big thank you to Alexandre and Gwen who helped us reach a new level, and Christophe for his support. I couldn’t have done it without them, or the support of my very good friend Laurent. I hope to have a good season and make them all proud.”
Nicolas Gilsoul, said:
“I am very happy to be back in the WRC, especially with a really good package, with a young promising driver, top car and world champion teammates. The main thing as well for me is taking part in the entire WRC calendar. I met Pierre-Louis last year during a training camp in France, at that time he was in a tough situation and I have been impressed by his mental strength to be able to show his speed, especially this year. Last weekend we did a national rally together and straight away I felt his driving skill which was enough to convince me.
“It’s fantastic to come back to M-Sport exactly 10 years after my first time as vice champion, it was probably my favourite year, we showed great speed and a lot of top memories. It was important for me to drive with Pierre-Louis prior to Monte, he is using a personal pace note system that I have never experienced before, like in every sport you need to practice in race conditions to get used to it. We all know Monte is the most complicated rally to approach, so it is essential to avoid any doubt at the start of the season.”
Richard Millener, Team Principal, said:
“We have all been impressed with Pierre’s performances this year. He has continuously shown his willingness to learn from and surpass previous experiences and this is what makes him the perfect candidate for a full season. He is, of course, still early on in his Rally1 career, and this upcoming season will be pivotal for him. Pierre is a real team player and has quickly become a key member of the M-Sport family, and personally, I’m looking forward to seeing what we will achieve together next year; I sincerely hope we see him claim a very well-deserved first podium result.”
Malcolm Wilson, Managing Director, said:
“I am very pleased to confirm Pierre-Louis Loubet for a full-time drive at the top level of the WRC with us next year. I have full confidence in him and feel this year’s performance has shown he has all the ingredients to go far in this sport. I am hopeful that working alongside Ott, Pierre will develop and learn in the same way Ott did in 2017 alongside Ogier.”