Sébastien Loeb and Isabelle Galmiche claim a monumental victory for the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team in Monte Carlo in the dramatic final stages of the event on Sunday. M-Sport celebrate a dream start to the 2022 World Rally Championship with a double podium on the Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1’s first ever event as Craig Breen and Paul Nagle finish third overall on their debut with the team. Claiming a total of six stage wins throughout the event, four of those in an epic back-to-back surge to the top spot on Friday, Loeb’s first drive for M-Sport was exceptional from start to finish. Sitting 21.5 seconds behind Ogier heading into Sunday, Loeb took first blood on the opening stage of the day reducing the gap by 1.1 seconds, but Ogier would fight back on the second stage increasing his lead to 4.6 seconds. Then some classic World Rally Championship drama saw Ogier suffering a puncture in the latter part of SS16, turning the deficit into a 9.5 second advantage for Loeb with just the final Power Stage to run. Loeb would stay calm, show his talent taking the event victory and the first ever win in the new hybrid-era of WRC. For co-driver Galmiche, it was her first WRC event alongside Loeb, becoming the first female co-driver to take overall victory in WRC in 25 years. The M-Sport Ford World Rally Team sits on top of the manufacturers' leaderboard while Breen and Nagle sit fourth in the Drivers' and Co-Drivers' Championships respectively. On what is Craig Breen’s first ever full season campaign, the Irishman, together with co-driver Paul Nagle, set competitive and consistently strong times throughout the course of the weekend. Breen commented how comfortable he was feeling in the car and congratulated the team back in Dovenby, Cumbria for their outstanding work over the past few months. Breen gained pace over the weekend, ending Sunday with consistent top three-times during the final stages of the event. The Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1s dominated the top spots as Gus Greensmith finishes the event in fifth place after consistently delivering over the weekend. A puncture and some technical issues caused him to drop time in two stages on Saturday, but the young Brit battled his way back to fifth position by the evening. Greensmith’s highlight of the weekend was undoubtedly taking his first ever WRC stage win as he gained 1.5 seconds on Neuville to claim the win in SS7 on Friday, adding to Loeb’s wins to give the team its fifth stage victory in a row that day. Although a disappointing weekend for Adrien Fourmaux after an accident in SS3 on Friday morning, the Frenchman was carrying excellent pace into the stage and has discussed how impressed he was with the car.
This maiden victory for M-Sport Ford comes after an incredible amount of hard work and dedication, and the team’s return to the top spot has been long-awaited.
Sébastien Loeb, first overall, said: "I'm really happy, I didn't expect so much. When I came here I didn't really know what to expect, I was just hoping I would be in a good rhythm and able to fight with the guys in the front. In the end it was more than we expected, we were able to fight with Ogier to boast for the win, and to finally win the rally at the end like this is just amazing. "It comes ten years after my last championship, I haven't done too many rallies since then, so to still be able to fight is just a great moment and I'm really proud of what we did. With Isabelle it was a very good weekend, she did a good job. The feeling with the car has been good since my first test and that gave me some confidence, but I didn't really know what level I would be at, but now we have the confirmation that we are able to fight at the front so it's just exceptional for us. A big thanks to all the team, they did a great job and the car was perfect all weekend, so a big thank you to everybody." Craig Breen, third overall, said: "Obviously really happy with how the weekend went, perhaps not the strongest of weekends pace-wise, but we really settled into the car with every stage. Ultimately today we definitely found our feet, our pace was really good, and we managed to bring home a podium result. It's great for the team, great to get two cars on the podium, and looking forward to Sweden now." Gus Greensmith, fifth overall, said: "Really happy with the weekend, a one-three-five for the team so pretty much the perfect start for the year. We definitely had the potential to fight for the podium this weekend, so we can use that as great encouragement for the rest of the year. Obviously the highlight was taking the maiden stage win for my career, the car is weapon and its been brilliant. I'm really happy for all the guys and girls for all the hard work they've put in. We've got this result, so let's move forward." Adrien Fourmaux said: “It’s really disappointing for all the team, it’s not what I wanted for them after the hard work they put in over Christmas. It was a mistake with big consequences, and I paid the price. So I’ll do my best to try to fix that, and try to make sure that mistake doesn’t happen again. "The car was amazing. I’m very happy with the feeling in the car, the guys have done a really good job. It is a really good result coming from Séb, Craig and Gus, and with all the work over the last two years to prepare for 2022, it is really great for the team.” Rich Millener, Team Principal, said: “Obviously I’m incredibly happy. To put everything together and for everyone to be so stressed out and busy working, just trying to get everything in place to build up to what is an incredibly tough rally, and to do so well, is fantastic for the team and all the drivers. It’s a dream result that will take a while to sink in, and we’re going to enjoy it while we can. I want to thank everybody, including all our friends from Ford, the M-Sport team, the drivers and the sponsors who made this happen. Without them, we simply couldn’t do it.”
Published 23rd January 2022