M-Sport Ford World Rally Team has endured a frustrating Rally Sweden with little hope of challenging for a strong result. Charged with the arduous task of sweeping a clean line through the fresh snow, the team were at the mercy of the conditions and unable to channel the true performance of the EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC.
But there were still plenty of Fiesta drivers enjoying the taste of champagne – Takamoto Katsuta piloting his Ford Fiesta R5 to victory in the RC2 class and WRC2 category; as well as Sweden’s Dennis Radstrom delivering a popular home win behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta R2 in the RC4 class and FIA Junior World Rally Championship.
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“We knew that this event would be difficult, especially if there was fresh snow on Friday, but we faced a bigger disadvantage than I think any of us had expected. If you look at who succeeded at Rallye Monte-Carlo and who struggled here, it’s clear that our pace this weekend was down to the conditions and little to do with the cars or the drivers.
“There’s nothing anyone could do about it, and the organisers put on another fantastic event with a great fight at the front, but we had no chance of making an impact and challenging for a strong result ourselves.
“With nothing to lose we had to try and salvage something so the team made the decision to delay Sébastien’s start for the final stage – giving him an equal chance of securing some Power Stage points.
“We can all take encouragement from his second fastest time through that stage. It gives him four additional points for his championship defence and proves that we would have had the pace were the weather not working against us.
“I must also send my congratulations to Takamoto and Dennis. The main team might not have been able to challenge for victory this weekend, but these two youngsters ensured that there were still plenty of Fiesta drivers enjoying the taste of champagne here in Sweden.
“Hailing from the host town of Torsby, I know that Dennis’ victory will mean a lot to him. And Takamoto has been superb. He’s the first Japanese driver to win a WRC2 round, and it’s great to see him secure such a landmark victory with the Fiesta.”
SUNINEN AND MARKKULA
It’s easy to forget how little experience Teemu Suninen has behind the wheel of the EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC – especially when he and co-driver Mikko Markkula were placed less than 30 seconds adrift of the lead on Friday evening.
But the fact remains that this is only his third outing in the top-specification Fiesta – and first since Rally Finland six months ago. As the competition continued, his more experienced rivals had the upper hand, but Suninen remains a notoriously quick learner.
Analysing his driving style, set-up and approach to the stages, the young Finn was able to show a marked improvement from one loop to the next and will be keen to discover even more when he heads to Rally Mexico in two weeks’ time.
SS17: 9th (+15.7)
SS18: 11th (+21.1)
SS19: 12th (+16.2)
Teemu Suninen (8th) said:
“It’s been a difficult rally, but we’ve been improving a lot and learning a lot about how to drive these cars on this surface – because it’s quite different from the R5 cars. The target before the rally was to be somewhere between fifth and eighth, and we’re eighth so it’s okay. But of course I was hoping for a bit more. We just need to improve the driving and learn more about how to be fast in these conditions.”
OGIER AND INGRASSIA
Every driver wants to be in the lead of the championship, but it came at a heavy price this weekend – Sébastien Ogier and Julian Ingrassia forced to clear a clean line through the snow for their rivals behind.
With their EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC effectively acting as a snow plough, the reigning World Champions had no hope of making an impression on the time sheets. But there were glimpses of speed that proved what could have been.
Saturday’s first pass of Vargåsen saw the most consistent conditions of the weekend and Ogier was able to post a competitive time – proving the extent of his disadvantage and that the pace elsewhere was no reflection on the performance of the driver or the car.
Heading into the Power Stage, the team then took the decision to delay his start time and give him an equal chance of getting some points on the board. Setting the second fastest time, Ogier proved what could have been possible were the weather not working against him.
SS17: 6th (+9.7)
SS18: 10th (+20.8)
SS19: 2nd (+1.3)
Sébastien Ogier (10th) said:
“For years now I have been fighting for different rules regarding the starting order. In the end, this is a World Championship and everyone tries to do their best and take every chance that there is to win points.
“At least on this stage [the Power Stage] we had the chance to score some points. I would have preferred to have come here with a realistic chance of fighting for the win or even a podium, but that was not possible from the beginning of this weekend.”
EVANS AND BARRITT
Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt have endured another luckless weekend. Picking up a puncture through the early stages, the pairing were forced into the same position as the championship leaders – clearing a line through the snow and missing out on the faster conditions behind.
The luckless Brits will now turn their attention to Rally Mexico where the roles will be reversed and they will have an opportunity to benefit from a more advantageous road position.
SS17: 7th (+10.6)
SS18: 12th (+32.1)
SS19: 11th (+13.2)
Elfyn Evans (14th) said:
“It’s not been the easiest of weekends. It’s probably fair to say that we were struggling for some pace through the early stages, but then when the puncture set us back we didn’t have any chance with the road position. It’s certainly not the weekend we wanted, so we just need to put it behind us and look forward to Mexico.”
1. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) 2:52:13.1
2. Craig Breen / Scott Martin (Citroen C3 WRC) +19.8
3. Andreas Mikkelsen / Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +28.3
4. Esapekka Lapp / Janne Ferme (Toyota Yaris WRC) +45.8
5. Hayden Paddon / Sebastian Marshall (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +54.4
6. Mads Østberg / Torstein Eriksen (Citroen C3 WRC) +1:15.3
7. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:04.9
8. Teemu Suninen / Mikko Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2:52.2
9. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +3:44.4
10. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +8:45.4
1. Thierry Neuville - 41
2. Sébastien Ogier - 31
3. Jari-Matti Latvala - 23
4. Esapekka Lapp - 23
5. Ott Tänak - 21
6. Andreas Mikkelsen - 21
7. Craig Breen - 20
8. Kris Meeke - 17
9. Hayden Paddon - 10
10. Elfyn Evans - 8
1. Hyundai Motorsport - 54
2. Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC - 53
3. Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team - 46
4. M-Sport Ford World Rally Team - 43