ITALY – Rally Italia-Sardegna concluded with the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team bringing its cars safely to the finish after three days of action in some of the most brutal conditions on the World Rally Championship calendar.
Gus Greensmith and his new co-driver Stuart Loudon claimed seventh place in their Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC. The young Englishman impressed with the maturity he displayed as he got the car fully dialled-in to the tight, treacherous gravel stages on the opening morning and only a gearbox issue at the end of Leg 1 and an electrical fault from Leg 2 kept him from a top-five finishing position.
Teemu Suninen continued to build his knowledge of the new range of gravel tyres implemented for the series in 2021 on his first WRC outing since the snowbound stages of the Arctic Rally in February. Suninen and co-driver Mikko Markkula finished 8th position after rolling out on the first stage of the rally and using the subsequent two days to gain valuable data for the team.
In WRC2, Adrien Fourmaux underlined his potential by recovering from a retirement on the opening day to finish sixth in the hard-fought junior category. The French youngster and his Belgian co-driver Renaud Jamoul set two fastest stage times on Saturday and then settled into a comfortable rhythm in order to ensure that they reached the end of a gruelling 20-stage event.
M-Sport Team Principal, Richard Millener, said:
“Sardinia is an event that tests cars and drivers to the limit of their endurance and almost every team throughout the service park has suffered one disappointment or another. That does not make it easier for us to look back at how the weekend has gone when you see our pace and what our potential finishing positions may have been.
“Teemu has learned a lot from his experience this weekend. He ran reliably on all but the first day and I think that the mileage and understanding will serve him well when he returns to the cockpit.
“You cannot help but feel for Gus, whose issues on the first two days were not of his own making. We win and lose together as a team of course, but we shall be going through the technical issues thoroughly to ensure that the next time he is in position to achieve the sort of finishing position that his pace deserves.
“Adrien’s ability after just four years of driving any kind of rally car remains exceptional, and while his mistake on Friday was a reflection of that I think we can all feel good about what getting to the end of the event, building that knowledge and winning a couple of stages means for his prospects.”
Gus Greensmith (7th) said:
“I think I was pretty happy with my driving this weekend, one or two stages were particularly good, it’s obviously a shame to then have technical issues that prevent that progress coming through in the overall results.
“I think that we can take heart from the reliability that the other two cars have shown this weekend. Clearly mine have been isolated incidents and in review and planning for the next event we will be able to move forward and keep aiming to get in amongst the top five.”
Teemu Suninen (8th) said:
“We could be happier, obviously, the first day wasn’t very good for us and that was a big shame but we have been able to build a good rhythm through Saturday and Sunday and to learn more about the performance of the Pirelli tyres on gravel.
“It was also a good learning to run first on the road as well, because you can really make up time when you know how to approach the stages with no markers and no line. You always want to take away more than what you learn from an event but on an event like this just reaching the finish can feel like an achievement.“
Adrien Fourmaux (6th, WRC2) said:
“Our goal is to push in all the stages and to keep the pressure on throughout the rally, and the incident on Friday was a combination of things related to readjusting back from the WRC car to the Rally2 and a little bit my experience. The difference in the aerodynamics on the cars is huge and I learned a big lesson as a result.
“We decided to push a bit more with the setup on Saturday, we tried a few different things to get to the point where I felt comfortable to really push and the result was two stage wins, which I think the team deserved for all their efforts this weekend.“
Saturday, June 5
The M-Sport Ford World Rally Team gave a good account of itself on the second day of Rally Italia Sardegna, with the Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiestas competing in both the World Rally Championship and WRC2 setting competitive stage times throughout the day.
After crashing out on the opening stage of the event, Teemu Suninen was handed the role of road sweeper as he returned as the first car into each of the eight timed stages throughout the day. Despite driving through the worst conditions possible, Suninen and co-driver Mikko Markkula were able to run as fast as seventh overall on their return to the top level of competition.
Gus Greensmith and his new co-driver Stuart Loudon also restarted after transmission issues on Friday’s final stage forced them to stop. The young Englishman’s day started brightly as the eighth fastest car through Saturday’s opening two stages, then went one better on the third stage of the day before electrical problems side-lined his car for a second time.
In WRC2, Adrien Fourmaux restarted after damaging the suspension of his Ford Fiesta Rally2 on Friday morning. The French youngster and his Belgian co-driver Renaud Jamoul were immediately on the pace, setting the second fastest time through each of the opening two tests.
On the sixth of the day’s eight stages, Fourmaux stormed to a pair of stage wins on the 13.03 Sedini stage, SS14 and SS16 respectively, which underlined the performance potential of the Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta as he gained in confidence and familiarity with the conditions.
M-Sport Team Principal, Richard Millener, said:
“Two stage wins for Adrien against some hugely experienced rivals in the WRC2 field shows not only how well he is developing on loose surfaces, but also that the Ford Fiesta Rally2 has the ability to run at the front on all surfaces, so that in itself is a big boost for the team.
“Obviously, it would be great if we could turn that performance into results and that is our target for the coming events, but as things stand I think that everyone can take significant confidence that we are going in the right direction.
“Teemu has driven very well indeed as he has begun to get the feeling back of having a full WRC car under him. The stage times that he was able to achieve with the disadvantage of being first on the road were on an upward curve through the day and the Ford Fiesta WRC ran flawlessly in what are some of the roughest stages of the season.
“With Gus’s problem, we could see that he was losing time from the start of the stage and a warning alarm meant he knew he had to back right off the pace and pull to the side while he and Stuart investigated the issue.
“The engineers tried to help with everything they could, but unfortunately we had to retire the car in order to ensure they could have another push tomorrow. I think that the growth in pace and confidence that Gus has shown just in the course of the past two rallies has been tremendous to see and it is great to see him silence his critics with these displays of his ability.”
Gus Greensmith said:
“The morning started well. We continued to make good progress with the setup of the car and I was feeling a lot more comfortable this morning. I feel like from my side of things we’ve had a very good day whilst we’ve been out there it seems we’ve been a lot more competitive with our rivals so I’m happy and we can move forward tomorrow to build on that.
“Obviously it’s very frustrating to have had another issue interrupt that progress but from where we started this event to where we are now in terms of pace I am looking forward to getting out there again tomorrow and getting some more good mileage.”
Teemu Suninen said:
“It’s been quite tricky. Actually some stages were not so slippery, not too much loose gravel, but then some other stages have been a bit harder. Even when we have been through stages for the second time and you hope that a lot of gravel has been swept away, the quick line is very narrow and the penalty for going off that line means that it is hard to commit and risk damaging the car.
“I’ve been playing about with my driving style at times, trying a few things just to get my performance back up to the level that I know I can produce. Getting the Ford Fiesta back on to the podium in the WRC this season is my target and so the mileage that we are able to get can only contribute towards our performance later in the season.“
Adrien Fourmaux said:
“It was important that we should put the disappointment of yesterday behind us, and to be able to run at the front and win two stages in WRC2 was really fantastic for us. I’m really happy.
“Of course it is bittersweet because our pace is strong enough to potentially challenge for the win, were it not for yesterday’s incident, but we have to take pride in what we are achieving and to make sure that we learn from every kilometre to the finish.
“The Ford Fiesta Rally2 has been faultless all day, I was able to feel a really good rhythm in the car and together with the team I think that we have done all that we can to show how strong our performance collectively.