The M-Sport Ford team charged into the first gravel event of the 2022 FIA World Rally Championship, Rally de Portugal, with high hopes and sights on a podium finish. However, drama befell the Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1 machines, dashing any hopes of putting on a dominating show on May 19th through 22nd.
Nine-time world champion, Sebastien Loeb, ran away with the win in the fourth stage of the event by 2.8 seconds, and looked ready to do it again when he leapt off the line for the fifth stage. He claimed the lead early, but just 100 meters into SS5, he made contact with a wall, breaking the rear wheel and damaging the race car’s suspension. The M-Sport Ford crew worked hard to put Loeb’s car back in racing condition for the following day. Shortly after starting SS11, the Puma lost power, forcing Loeb and co-driver Isabelle Galmiche to retire from the event.
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Meanwhile, Gus Greensmith set the second-fastest time in SS1 and brought home fifth place by the end of the first day of racing. However, his M-Sport Ford Puma experienced a punctured tire, followed by a concealed rock that wreaked havoc on the rear suspension on the second day, eliminating his hopes of securing a podium finish.
Craig Been and his M-Sport Ford Puma ran consistently near the front throughout the event. Unfortunately, a brake issue late on the final day of racing put a blemish on his quietly impressive performance.
Pierre-Louis Loubet showed muscle throughout the weekend, setting the second-fastest time in SS2 and carrying his momentum throughout the day. Unlike several of his M-Sport Ford teammates, Loubet wheeled his race car home without incident, taking home a seventh-place finish, the best of the Pumas. Adrien Fourmaux also finished without major incident, and was scored ninth overall.
“We came here with a very strong lineup and hopes of a second podium result,” said Richard Millener, M-Sport Ford Team Principal. “Unfortunately, a mistake that I think nobody would have expected from Seb [Loeb] meant an early end to an exciting day. Mixed misfortune for Gus [Greensmith] and Craig [Been] meant they were unable to get the results they deserved, but Pierre [Loubet] and Adrien [Fourmaux] had very strong performances.”