M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC showed winning pace at this weekend’s Rally Sweden – claiming five stage wins and challenging for victory on the second round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
With the team’s continued development paying dividends, Teemu Suninen delivered an incredible performance through the opening stages. Leading the field for the first time in his career, the young Finn was consistently quick and went into yesterday’s competition with a slender lead over M-Sport’s former protégé Ott Tänak.
Keeping the Estonian honest, it looked as though Suninen would be locked in an intense battle for victory before he became a victim of the snowbanks. A second dice with the snowbanks then ended with a high-speed impact which brought M-Sport’s world-class technicians to the fore – replacing part of the rollcage in less than three hours to see their latest star back out on the stages.
Elfyn Evans also had the speed to challenge for the top results this weekend, but was left ruing an early spin on Friday morning which cost him close to half a minute. Regrouping with three fastest stage times, the Welshman pushed hard but had to settle for fifth place – albeit just 10 seconds shy of the podium.
Showcasing his speed once again, he also claimed an additional three points for the third-fastest time through the Power Stage.
Local hero Pontus Tidemand also continued to gain the vital knowledge and experience needed to progress at this level but, having suffered some technical issues on Friday morning, was hampered by road position throughout much of the weekend.
Despite the disadvantage, the young Swede showed promising speed with a fourth fastest time on Friday afternoon and regularly outperformed those with a similar road position and considerably more experience.
Team Principal, Richard Millener, said:
“It wasn’t the result we wanted, but it’s definitely been a positive weekend. The whole team has been working extremely hard on the development of this car, and it’s great to see that hard work paying off with stage-winning, and rally-winning, pace here in Sweden.
“We’ve witnessed a real coming-of-age performance from Teemu – leading a WRC rally for the very first time and proving that he has the speed to challenge for the top results. Yes he made some mistakes, but that’s part of the game when you’re learning how to push at this level and I was impressed to see how quickly he got back up to speed.
“Elfyn also had the speed this weekend with three fastest stage times, and he will be kicking himself about that spin on Friday morning! Were it not for that he could have secured quite a comfortable podium, but it was great to see him bounce back after the disappointment in Monte. I don’t think we’ll have to wait too long before he brings home some silverware, and I’m looking forward to seeing how he performs in Mexico.
“It was a shame that Pontus had some technical issues on Friday morning because that hampered his road position over the next two days. But we still saw some strong times from him. He set a fourth fastest time on Friday afternoon and it would be nice to see him back in the car so that he can continue his development.”
Elfyn Evans (5th) said:
“We’ve had very good speed for the most part of this weekend. I would say that we can be happy with 75 percent of the stages we did, but I’m just kicking myself about the other 25 percent which didn’t go quite as well as they should have.
“We had the potential to be on the podium so we are left with a little bit of frustration, but there are still a lot of positives. We’ve made a massive step with the car compared to last year and we already know that we’re competitive on gravel so I’m really looking forward to the upcoming events.”
Pontus Tidemand (8th) said:
“It’s a dream to compete here on my home event with a world rally car. It has been amazing and I want to thank all of the fans and supporters and of course my sponsors as well as the whole M-Sport team and Ola who have done a fantastic job all weekend.
“It was a shame to have had the issues on Friday but these things happen and I have been improving a lot. I’m starting to feel quite comfortable with the aerodynamics and everything and I only wish this event could have been longer!
“I still need some time with this incredible car, and I really hope that we have an opportunity to do some more later in the year.”
Teemu Suninen said:
“We had really good pace this weekend, and that gives me a lot of confidence. But there were a couple of mistakes and that means that we come away from this rally with no points.
“I have to work hard for the next event, but I still think there have been a lot of positives this weekend. I led a rally for the first time, and the car felt really good. A big thanks to the team who have been working really hard, and hopefully we can do better in Mexico.”
1. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:47:30.0
2. Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferme (Citroen C3 WRC) +53.7
3. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +56.7
4. Andreas Mikkelsen / Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1:05.4
5. Elfyn Evans / Scott Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:08.2
6. Kris Meeke / Sebastian Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:38.8
7. Sébastien Loeb / Daniel Elena (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1:49.7
8. Pontus Tidemand / Ola Fløene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3:37.7