*Pierre-Louis Loubet is ERC-bound nearly 30 years since father Yves won championship
*BRC Racing Team Hyundai i20 R5 awaits French federation-backed promise
*Team OSCARO behind Loubet’s push for European success
Pierre-Louis Loubet will follow in the wheel tracks of father Yves when he chases FIA European Rally Championship success in 2018 – almost 30 years since Loubet Sr claimed the prestigious title.
Yves Loubet took ERC gold in 1989 driving a Lancia Delta Integrale. Loubet Jr, meanwhile, will have a BRC Racing Team Hyundai i20 R5 at his disposal for his European championship campaign, which begins on the gravel-based Azores Airlines Rallye from 22-24 March.
“I had a very good opportunity to do some races in the ERC so I took it,” said 20-year-old Loubet, who will be eligible for ERC Junior Under 28 honours. “The objective is to be as close to the top as possible and if it’s possible to win a rally we will try to do it. I do not know the rallies but I hope to adapt quickly. Gravel is my favourite surface because my first feeling in a rally car was on gravel. I just hope I can do my best.”
Competing under the Team OSCARO banner with support from the world's leading online retailer of original automotive spare parts, Loubet is part of the L’Equipe de France FFSA Rallye training initiative, which is playing a key role in honing his skills. Previous beneficiaries of the scheme’s support include Sébastiens Loeb and Ogier, Stéphane Lefebvre, Stéphane Sarrazin and Nicolas Vouilloz. “It’s really important for a French driver to be supported by his federation because we know how many good driver has had their support,” said Loubet. “They help me work on my pacenotes, my driving. It’s a plus for me.”
Nicolas Bernardi, the national coach, was also supported by the L’Equipe de France FFSA Rallye during his career, which included stints as a factory driver in the world championship. He has high hopes for Loubet. “He’s a really talented driver, really young, 20 years old, and he is still one of our best talents at the moment in France,” said Bernardi. “His target this year is to win a rally – he needs this for his confidence. At the moment the level in the world championship is so high for his experience. In the ERC it’s very competitive but the conditions are better for him to win. It’s definitely the best option.”
Bernardi continued: “I started to work with Pierre-Louis when he was 15. It was amazing because he never drove a car, he was go-kart driver. After one hour he was able to slide like a professional driver and it was amazing. I’ve seen some incredible performances from him.”
Jean-Baptiste Ley, the ERC co-ordinator, said: “Having a driver of Pierre-Louis Loubet’s ability and potential in the ERC is great news. I have no doubt he will benefit enormously from an ERC campaign.”
The Azores Airlines Rallye hosts the 2018 ERC opener from 22-24 March. The ERC Junior U28 champion gets the option of a one-off prize drive in a World Rally Car on a European round of the WRC in 2019.