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  • Writer's pictureDrew Bentham

Who's up for securing the final WRC drives?

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

With only a few weeks left for teams to elect their driver line up for 2024, only MSport are left to state their intentions. Of course this is nothing new as the Cockermouth based team are usually the last to do so. This year of course has not been kind to the team. Reliability and a potential speed deficit not helping the team to retain former champion Ott Tanak who has now re-joined Hyundai in 2024 to partner Thierry Neuville full time. Richard Millener has already said a young driver line up is likely, but who are the potential candidates on the shortlist?

Pierre Louis Loubet

Being the only option to have completed a full time Rally1 campaign this year, he does have the most experience with the car. Loubet has had a torrid time in 2023 though, recording only 6th place as his highest finish all year along with a string of DNFs and driver errors. Sometimes that's just rallying and as we know, the car hasn't been where it should have this year. Even so on occasion, Loubet has shown some good pace and even set some fastest stage times during the year. Previous seasons have seen other drivers (some who would go on to great success), have similar years with the team. All things being equal, he's still probably a good choice to stay.

Gregoire Munster

Conversely Munster has enjoyed a good 2023. The 24-year-old won the Junior WRC category in Estonia, set the pace in WRC2 and recorded a 4th fastest time on the Central European Rally in the Rally1 machine, replacing Loubet while doing so. Munster seems to have impressed the team but is he ready for an all out assault given where he is in his career? With other drivers in the mix, it is also likely Munster could head up a WRC2 program to further develop him as a driver, on the same roads he would be tackling in a Rally1. This would make for a far less pressurised season for him, which could pave the way for a future Rally1 drive.

Adrien Fourmaux

Fourmaux has been here before. In fact he's barely been out of a Ford for the majority of his career and has been a works driver in previous years including in 2022. As is often the case with drivers, the team decided it would be beneficial to step him back in 2023 to the Rally2 Fiesta and set him the challenge of winning the British Rally Championship and bringing home a good result in WRC2. And he delivered. The British was a slam dunk with nobody able to match his pace in the only works car. That said he still had to bring it home and that he most certainly did. In WRC2 he scored a string of top 10 finishes across the season to end up with 8th overall. More importantly, with only 1 accident all year which was a major reason for the step back in the first place. In a brief outing in the Rally1 machine this year he scored an 8th on the CER rally and obviously went off the road in Japan. It seems that latter was just a rallying accident in terrible conditions and not a return to old form. It would seem Fourmaux has fulfilled his mission this year, proving his reliability, building his confidence and repairing his reputation. You would be brave to bet against him for a seat next year.

Anyone Else?

There have been other names tossed into the hat this silly season but to be frank, non of them seem feasible. Oliver Solberg, whilst a joy to watch, has a sponsor clash. The Norwegian being supported by Monster Energy and MSport by Red Bull. I don't see either party willing to give up that kind of investment in light of the spiralling costs.

If not those names already in the mix, MSport only have to look to the rest of WRC2 and indeed the ERC for a wealth of drivers who, although may not make the cut this year, could be put on a similar development program for future years. For me, my money's on Loubet and Fourmaux with part time appearances from Munster thrown in to give him some seat time. I guess we'll find out in the next 3 weeks.

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