Who said you can’t teach old dogs new tricks? Sébastien Loeb, grizzled winner of nine rally world championships and at 47 twice the age of many rivals, won the opening round of the 2022 World Rally Championship at the wheel of an all-new Ford Puma Rally1 hybrid car.
Loeb’s victory over fellow Frenchman Sébastien Ogier went down to the final stage of a nail-biting Monte-Carlo Rally. It was his 80th WRC win and made him the oldest competitor ever to win a WRC round.
Loeb made his rally debut way back in 1999 and is officially semi-retired. He had planned only to contest selected events this year for Malcolm Wilson’s M-Sport Ford team.
Almost as astounding as Loeb’s win is the story of his co-driver Isabelle Galmiche, the first female Monte winner in a quarter of a century. Unbelievably, it was the 50-year-old’s first top-flight WRC event. She only co-drives part-time: her day job is teach ing maths.
Galmiche has tested with Loeb in the Ford Puma on a number of occasions and he heaped praise on her performance, highlighting how she mastered the complex systems of a Rally1 car with ease and never stumbled on her notes.
Irish driver Craig Breen finished almost 90sec further back in third in another Puma, giving the M-Sport Ford squad an early lead in the manufacturers’ championship. The next round takes place in Sweden on February 24.