M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Teemu Suninen and Marko Salminen may have missed their chance to fight for a maiden victory at this weekend’s Rally Sweden, but the Finns have certainly proved their speed alongside the performance of the EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC.
Leading an FIA World Rally Championship event for the first time in his career, Suninen was locked in a battle for the win with Ott Tänak. Keeping the Estonian honest, the Finn was on pace before getting off line and dragged into a snowbank through the first pass of Hagfors (SS10).
Despite losing a minute and a half to the lead, Suninen and Salminen regrouped and quickly got back up to speed. Climbing the leaderboard, they were on course to add to their tally of fastest stage times before clipping a tree at high-speed on the second pass of Vargåsen (SS14).
With the impact causing damage to the rollcage, the Finns had to return to service where the cage could be inspected and repaired with the expertise of M-Sport’s world-class technicians. Job done, the Fiesta will be back on the stages tomorrow.
Having piloted their Fiesta to two stage wins yesterday, Elfyn Evans and Scott Martin were hoping for more of the same but struggled to find a comfortable rhythm in the difficult conditions
Despite there being no stage wins for the Welshman today, his efficiency remained and a clean and tidy drive means that he is still less than 15 seconds adrift of the podium with all to play for tomorrow.
Pontus Tidemand also continued to gain experience of the top-specification Fiesta and showed good speed against those with the same road positions – regularly out-performing big names with a lot more experience.
Team Principal, Richard Millener, said:
“Today wasn’t quite as good as yesterday! Obviously it was a shame to lose Teemu from the fight at the front, but we’re still really impressed with his performance. Accidents happen, but his times were incredible. It was good to see how quickly he was able to get back on the pace after the mistakes, and this should give him a lot of confidence for the rallies to come.
“Unfortunately his second mistake proved rather more costly than his first and there was some damage to the rollcage which meant he had to come straight back to service. As we manufacturer our own rollcages we’re allowed to make the repair ourselves – so long as it can be done in three hours and the FIA are happy.
“Our mechanics love a challenge and they’ve excelled themselves with this one. It’s not an easy thing to do, but that’s why they’re the best mechanics in the business – and they’ve deserved a couple of beers tonight!”
Elfyn Evans (5th) said:
“There was more time to be found out there today and although we had some good stages it was disappointing to lose so much time on some of the others. Tomorrow is a new day and we’ll keep fighting and looking forward.”
Pontus Tidemand (8th) said:
“I started to feel very comfortable in the car this afternoon so I am happy for that. But with this road position it was not so easy to get close to the top times. Hopefully if we have some freezing temperatures tonight, tomorrow will be a bit better for us.”
Teemu Suninen said:
“We made some mistakes today but I think this weekend has still been a positive one. Last year we were struggling quite a lot with the pace, but this year we were able to increase the speed and fight for the top positions.
“The pace has been really good all weekend. Of course we shouldn’t have made these mistakes, but there were a lot of mistakes from a lot of drivers in these difficult conditions – and it is better to have the pace and improve the consistency.
“The performance has given me a lot of confidence and I need to push more and prepare even harder for the next rallies. I want to thank the team – not only for repairing the car today – but also because everyone is pushing in the right direction and the car feels really good.”
1. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:19:31.7
2. Andreas Mikkelsen / Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +54.5
3. Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferme (Citroen C3 WRC) +54.5
4. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +56.8
5. Elfyn Evans / Scott Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:08.7
6. Kris Meeke / Sebastian Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:36.5
7. Sébastien Loeb / Daniel Elena (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1:38.1
8. Pontus Tidemand / Ola Fløene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3:08.0