- For the 50th season of the World Rally Championship founded in 1973, the M-Sport Ford sends a quintet of approximately 368 kW (500 hp) of turbocharged four-wheel drive vehicles to the race
- Superstar in the Ford Puma cockpit: After winning the Monte Carlo Rally, nine-time rally champion Sebastien Loeb is now also competing on the gravel for the M-Sport Ford
- On the wheel of other Puma careers: Craig Brin/Paul Nagel, Joss Greensmith/Jonas Anderson, Adrien Formeau/Alexander Correa and Pierre-Louis Loubet/Vincent Landis
A record lineup for a historic memory: The World Rally Championship celebrates its fiftieth season this season at the Portuguese Tour. M-Sport Ford offers a special gift: The team sends five new Puma Hybrid Rally1 models with an innovative hybrid drive to the starting line. This is the record in the first class of the motorsport class. The spearhead in the quintet is none other than nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb. At the wheel of a turbo-hybrid four-cylinder EcoBoost engine with up to 368 kW (500 hp), the Frenchman now wants to follow up his victory in the Monte Carlo Rally in January with a better result on gravel as well.
In fact, Webb can look back on his period of success in the Rally of Portugal. His debut in the Classics in 2007 led him to a top 11 out of 18 specials stages and to first place. In 2009 he stood on the top of the podium for the second time. Now, the Alsatians are looking to run their 182nd World Championship race, aiming for his 81st victory and 121st podium finish in his extraordinary World Championship career.
Ford also has a long history of success in the Rally of Portugal. In 1979, Hannu Mikkola/Arne Hertz drove the Escort RS 1800 to a brand victory for the first time. In 1993, Frenchman François Delcourt/Daniel Gratalup followed him at the wheel of a Group A Escort RS Cosworth. Six years later, the legendary Colin McRae was the winner with co-driver Nikki Grest and Ford Focus WRC, and the victory was celebrated on the finish ramp. In 2012, the winners of the Portugal Rally were Mads Ostberg / Jonas Anderson. Your competition machine: the Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Finally, in 2017, France’s Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingracia dominated the gravel event with the Fiesta WRC and led to fifth out of a total of eight World Championship titles in the same year.
M-Sport Ford wants to add the next chapter to this date next weekend. The program includes 22 Special Stages (SS), including the famous spectator special stage at Losada on Friday and the classic eleven kilometer gravel course at Fafe. It serves as the so-called power phase, where the five fastest drivers can look forward to up to five additional World Championship points, and of course also includes the world-famous jump hill.
While Sebastien Loeb is only competing in this year’s Select World Rally Championship, the crew of the Puma Hybrid Rally1 are members Craig Breen/Paul Nagle, Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson and Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria as part of the regular M-Sport Ford crew in Portugal. Previously in Croatia they were joined by Pierre-Louis Loubet / Vincent Landis.
In addition to the top stars of the Rally1 and Rally2 categories, the FIA World Junior Championships will enrich the field of participants with seven examples of the Fiesta Rally3 all-wheel drive. In addition to the five Puma Hybrid Rally1 cars, a total of 13 rally vehicles based on the Ford Fiesta-produced Cologne-Nile will descend on the starting ramp in Coimbra on Thursday evening from 18:55 local time, before the “first super special stage”. “The scene for the fourth round of the season begins.
“Portugal has always been a tough place and the first true gravel rally for the new Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1 – so we’re looking forward to an exciting mission,” explains Richard Milner, Team Principal M-Sport. “We are very proud to be the first manufacturer to offer five cars in the Rally1 class. Preparing for this was a special challenge. After last year’s development program and the positive feedback from drivers in our tests, we believe the Puma Hybrid Rally1 will do a very good job on the gravel. Our enthusiasm Driven by the fact that Sebastien Loeb and co-driver Isabel Galmich are back in action.After our victory in the Rally Monte Carlo, I can hardly believe he’s between that success and there are only two more WRC rounds before the next ‘Portugal’.The timing is hardly better: after all The World Rally Championship celebrates its fiftieth birthday next weekend!”
Sébastien Loeb / Isabelle Galmiche (Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1, car #19); World Cup Ranking: 4; Rally Portugal starts: 6 Best result: 1st place (2007, 2009)
“The Ford Puma Hybrid Rally made a good impression during our first gravel test,” Loeb said. “I was very satisfied with the setup of the chassis and differential. However, we only had a day to try it out, which is not much for a new car. I hope we can quickly find a good rhythm and keep track of the racers. If we stay close to the podiums. That would be a good performance. In Rally Portugal I have to leave fourth on stage one, which makes it more difficult if it stays dry. I don’t really do that. You know, what Friday has in store for us. Then we’ll see where we stand.”
Craig Brin/Paul Nagel (Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1, Car #42); World Cup Ranking: 3; Rally Portugal starts: 6 Best result: 5th place (2017)
“I haven’t been in Portugal for a long time, maybe in 2018 for the last time,” said Brien. “A lot of tests have been new since then, so it’s going to be fun.” “The first three rounds of this season’s World Championships had their own character. It will be even more important now how competitive the new Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1 will be in the typical gravel event. During the test drive I felt very good in the car. The car felt comfortable.”
Gus Greensmith/Jonas Anderson (Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1, Car #44); World Cup Ranking: 7; Rally Portugal starts: 6 Best result: 5th place (2021)
“The Portugal Rally is without a doubt one of my favorite events on the WRC calendar, I have a lot of good memories there. This is my seventh time at the start, so I hope this experience helps me,” said Greensmith. “My feeling tells me: I’m in the right place at the right time – in terms of the Puma Hybrid Rally 1 and co-driver, for example. Since I don’t have to score points for the manufacturers’ championship, it’s possible to drive freely and without pressure.”
Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1, car #16); World Cup Ranking: 21; Rally Portugal starts: 1st Best result: 9th place (2019, 1st WRC2 class)
“It’s my second Rally of Portugal. Last year I felt very comfortable with the Fiesta WRC. Now of course I’m looking forward to seeing what is possible with the Ford Puma,” Formo said. “The event has a great atmosphere with a great crowd. As the first of several cobbled events, the rally is of great importance. We are looking forward to it and hopefully a good result for the team.”
Perre-Louis Loubet / Vincent Landais (Ford Fiesta Rally2, car #7); World Cup Ranking: 23; Rally Portugal starts: 6 Best score: 9 (2021, 2 in WRC2)
“The Portugal Rally is one of my favourites, as we have had some of the best results in the past. It was my first World Championship race, at the time when I was 18,” said Lope. “Our performance in Croatia was fine. When we started the Puma Hybrid Rally1 for the second time, now I hope we can build on that. If we can avoid the punctures, everything will be fine.”
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