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M-Sport targeting Sebastien Loeb for 2019 WRC deal

Malcolm Wilson’s M-Sport team look set to launch an audacious bid to sign nine-time world champion Sébastien Loeb as part of its World Rally Championship team for 2019.Loeb’s future remains unclear after Peugeot’s decision to close his main programme in World Rallycross (World RX), although he has now secured a deal to contest the 2019 Dakar Rally in a privately-run Peugeot.

Shortly after Peugeot’s RX decision, which Loeb admitted at RallyRACC Catalunya took him completely by surprise, he claimed his first WRC win in six years by triumphing on the Spanish event as the last of the three rounds he contested with Citroën in his part-time 2018 comeback programme.

But PSA Group CEO Carlos Tavares was quick to point out that Loeb remained under contract with Peugeot-Citroën, while Citroën CEO Linda Jackson has also intimated that Loeb could still be accommodated in a WRC line-up expanded to three cars next season.

But the reigning WRC champion team M-Sport is losing its current lead driver Sébastien Ogier to Citroën next year and team principal Wilson has set his sights on signing Loeb.

“I’ve always been a big fan of his and what he can do,” Wilson said. “We’ve seen that pace and potential on the three rallies he’s done again this year. It would be ridiculous not to talk about what could be possible now. Who knows what can happen, but I would be very, very interested in him coming back to our place and having a run in the car.”

Loeb said the Catalunya win had made him realise that he was still most at home in rallying, and made him keener to continue in the championship next year. However, he has made it quite clear that he does not want to make a full-time WRC return, and Wilson said he was open to a part-time deal.

“I understand his reasons why he might not want to do the whole year,” the M-Sport boss added. “But I have no doubt we could make this work for him as well as for us.”

Loeb previously tested an M-Sport Ford in 2005, with an eye to joining the team in 2006, when Citroën took a sabbatical. In the end he chose to stay on for a semi-works Kronos Racing deal that represented Citroën that season, and won the title again.

“It was fantastic to see him in the car at that time,” Wilson added. “We knew what he wanted and we knew we were going to find the money to do it. But in the end he wanted to stay with Citroën – I think by then he knew that 2006 would be an interim year and they made a commitment for a longer-term with the new car for 2007. He was a French driver in a French car with a French team.”

Source: Motorsport Week