Teemu Suninen and Mikko Markkula delivered an impressive FIA World Rally Championship debut for the Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta R5 Evo2 at this weekend’s Rally de Portugal.

The Finns showed strong pace through the challenging terrain – setting five stage victories on their way to second position.

Locked in an intense battle with Pontus Tidemand – which turned into a battle for the win when Andreas Mikkelsen failed to finish the final speed test – Suninen had the better of his rival on the stages but victory came down to who could deliver the fastest wheel change.

When both crews picked up a puncture through the second pass of Amarante (SS15) – Tidemand had the upper hand and Suninen had to forgo victory by just 11.2 seconds.

Teemu Suninen (2nd) said:

“Unfortunately, we lost this rally by changing a tyre just slightly slower than Pontus [Tidemand]! We might have missed out on the victory, but I think we can still be really happy with our performance this weekend.

“This was our first time here with the Fiesta and I think we showed good pace. There are still some aspects that we can improve with the driving, but it’s all going in the right direction and I’m looking forward to the next challenge.”

Gus Greensmith (6th) said:

“The way I look at it, it’s been a really positive rally for us. If you compare our pace to last time out in Sweden we’ve made a huge step forward – I certainly didn’t expect to be consistently trading times with the likes of Teemu, Éric and Pontus this year!

“I’ve gained lots of experience – understood where the mistakes have come from and learnt what we need to improve on. It’s been a fantastic effort from all of the team on our car, and, all in all, a pretty good weekend.”

Éric Camilli (7th) said:

“We know that the speed is there, but this rally didn’t work out so well for us. We wanted to enjoy a good battle, but it wasn’t to be. It was a tough event for us, but it got better today with a couple of stage wins and that’s the positive we need to take away.”

Pedro Heller (8th) said:

“Our aim was to complete the rally and to take as much experience as we could. We’ve done that and I’m happy.

“This wasn’t just my first time rallying in Portugal, it was my first time rallying in Europe. We know that the learning curve will be a steep one – and the rhythm is so fast – but we’ll reach our goal kilometre by kilometre and we’ve made a good start to that this weekend.”

Pierre-Louis Loubet (10th) said:

“We’ve taken good experience for the future and now we need to focus on the next event in Sardinia. This was our first time with the Fiesta on gravel and we had to build our confidence throughout the weekend.

“To challenge for the top results, I know that I need more kilometres in the car but we’re learning all the time. I’m sure that in Sardinia we will be better as I learnt a lot this weekend – especially about the set-up.”

Max Vatanen (13th) said:

“It’s been a difficult rally and it was a shame not to get all of the kilometres after we damaged the radiator yesterday morning. This was my first time with the Fiesta R5 and the step-up from R2 is quite big. I wasn’t so confident in the beginning, but we learnt a lot and will focus on making an improvement at the next one.”