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M-Sport is unsure if Loeb will be back after his shock retirement from Rally Portugal

The nine-time World Champion hit a wall on Stage 5 and led the rally on his return to the World Rally Championship after winning the Monte Carlo season opener in January.

The impact severely damaged the Ford Puma’s right rear suspension.

Loeb apologized to the team for the rare mistake, but the Ford team is now in a race against time to fix the car and allow for a return on Saturday.

M-Sport team principal Richard Millener confirmed to Motorsport.com that repairs to the team’s other cars would be a priority before Loeb’s Puma is repaired.

Craig Breen damaged the right corner of his Puma in the afternoon stages while Pierre-Louis Loubet also had a wild moment on stage 8.

“It’s a real shame, we had a great opportunity at lunchtime which looked like it was going to be another fantastic fight for the weekend and you expect Loeb to be there or near it,” Millener said.

“He made a mistake that I don’t think any of us expected. It is what it is, you can’t win them all. It doesn’t always go like in a fairy tale. He made a mistake and he apologized for it.

Sebastien Loeb, Isabelle Galmiche, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1, Accident

Photo by: Sebastien Loeb

“We’d like to fix it [the car] and drive off but just look at the damage done to the other cars throughout the day these guys [the mechanics] got a hell of a lot to do.

“We have to do one at a time and it will start quite late. We’ll see where we stand.”

Despite suffering two punctures, Gus Greensmith is leading M-Sport’s charge after finishing fifth on Friday, a minute behind rally leader Elfyn Evans.

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