While the Ford Puma continues to hover around the top of the European sales charts, its racing brethren – the Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1 – continues to blow the minds of everyone that drives it, including Ford CEO Jim Farley, M-Sport driver Sebastien Loeb, and team leader Craig Breen following its debut late last year with a brand new look. Loeb went on to pilot the Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1 to its very first victory in its very first race, and now, M-Sport is eyeing a new record as Loeb makes make his second appearance behind the wheel at Rally Portugal this weekend – fielding the first five-car entry in the World Rally Championship’s (WRC) new hybrid Rally1 era.
Along with Loeb and his co-driver Isabelle Galmiche – who guided Loeb to a record-setting 80th victory at Rallye Monte-Carlo in January – the M-Sport team is preparing a full-blown assault at Rally de Portugal, which was featured in WRC’s inaugural season 50 years ago. M-Sport has earned its fair share of success in Portugal in the past, having won the event outright in 2017 and scoring a double podium in 2018.
Meanwhile, Loeb – a nine-time WRC champion – has earned two victories and two podium finishes in Portugal over his illustrious career. The event contains some of rallying’s most famous stages, including the Lousada super special stage on Friday and Sunday’s Fafe power stage, which features one of WRC’s most iconic jumps within the 11 km final stage.
“Portugal is always a tough rally and with it being our first proper gravel rally with the new car, it will likely be a big challenge,” said M-Sport team principal Richard Millener. “With a five-car line-up the team has been working under exceptional circumstances since Croatia and it’s a proud moment for us all to be the first manufacturer to field five Hybrid Rally1 cars on a single event. From our testing and development program last year and the feedback from our pre-event test, I think the Puma Hybrid will perform well on gravel as our drivers are feeling comfortable and confident in the car.”