At the end of 2022, it’ll be 10 years since Sébastien Loeb retired from full-time WRC competition. But on the evidence of last weekend’s Monte Carlo Rally, you wouldn’t know it. The Frenchman took victory in the first round of the new ‘Rally1’ hybrid era in his M-Sport Ford Puma, breaking a record in the process.
At 47 years of age, he’s now the oldest WRC winner ever, taking the place of the late Swedish driver Björn Waldegård, who won the 1990 Safari rally at 46. It was Loeb’s 80th WRC victory overall and his eighth in Monte Carlo. Meanwhile, his new co-driver Isabelle Galmiche was the first woman to top the podium since Fabrizia Pons in 1997, also at Monte Carlo.
Reigning champion Sébastien Ogier initially looked set to take the win, but while leading by over a minute in the penultimate stage, he suffered a puncture on his Toyota GR Yaris. Loeb’s fellow Frenchman ended up second, just over 10 seconds behind on the timesheets.
It’s been a busy month for Loeb, who placed second in the Dakar Rally less than two weeks ago. Monte Carlo may end up being his only WRC outing this year, however. He says he’s keen for more drives in 2022, but admitted last week this may be impossible given his Extreme E commitments and talk of a World Cross Country Championship drive.
Speaking about his Monte Carlo Win, Loeb said, “I feel really happy. I didn’t expect so much when I came here, but it was a great fight…Ogier was really fast and I struggled a bit yesterday and even this morning.”
Completing the podium was Ford’s Craig Breen, with Toyota driver Kalle Rovanperä in fourth. WRC’s next outing with these new hybrid cars is Rally Sweden, which takes place from 24 - 27 February.