LE BALL – “I have to buy a house in Portugal” (Rally of Portugal)

At 48, Sébastien Loeb is the most successful driver in the WRC, the championship which celebrates its 50th anniversary during the 55th edition of Rally Portugal. At the wheel of a Ford Puma, one of the 12 Rally1 hybrid engines of this 4th round of the World Championship, is competing for the seventh time on national soil. Before the game in Coimbra, BOLA spoke to the Frenchman at Matosinhos.

– At the beginning of the month, at the Portimão circuit, he made his debut in the German Touring Championship (DTM). Now he is back home to take part in the 2022 WRC for the second time…
– It’s true, I have to buy a house in Portugal!

– Won Monte Carlo, at the start of the championship, at the start of Rally1 and with Puma and M-Sport Ford. What is the objective of this WRC round?
– Honestly, I don’t know what to expect. I’m ambitious, of course, I like to win, but we only tested one day and it’s the first gravel rally with Puma. And, of course, I lack the rhythm to compete regularly at the Worlds. I hope to win it quickly, after the start of the race, but the fourth position in the championship penalizes us on the first day, because it puts us among the first teams on the road.

– Still in Monte-Carlo, just after his first contact with Puma, he said he was amazed by the adaptation and the driving. Well, did you have the same feeling after the first kilometers at the wheel of the Ford?
– Nope. It took me longer to adapt, but dirt is different from asphalt. But the truth is that I wanted to compete with the new Rally1 on this type of surface.

– This new generation of cars is different from the previous one…
– Very! The hybrid system works automatically, but the level of power it generates forces the driver to adapt. We control everything with the accelerator… We’ll see if we do as well in Portugal as in Monte Carlo. In this rally, the start is crucial: well done the first day, I have a better position on the road the second! If you do, the chances of success are greater.

– The competition is strong. How do you anticipate this rally?
– Yes, all the names are there! Even the Ogiers… There will be a lot of battles for victory. I have always loved racing, but the truth is that I have participated in more editions in the Algarve than in this region, which I know less well. I was last here in 2019 with Hyundai. Classes are fun, exciting. I still feel very good in Portugal, a country with people who love rallies.

– You and Ogier only participate in a few rallies of the 2022 World Cup, but you were in Monte Carlo, you end up in Portugal… Have you already organized the next event?!
– No, we didn’t talk about it! It’s a coincidence, maybe because we both like both tests and we have free dates in our diaries.

Read the full interview in the print or digital edition of A BOLA

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