M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Elfyn Evans and Teemu Suninen will make a return to Tarmac when the FIA World Rally Championship ventures to next week’s Corsica Linea - Tour de Corse.
Having already proven the pace of their EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC on snow and gravel, the duo will be looking to do the same on asphalt – challenging for the top results at the legendary Rally of 10,000 Corners.
Both top-specification Fiestas will be fitted with the latest aerodynamic updates and the team conducted a comprehensive two-day test on the island earlier this week – targeting various set-up configurations for optimum performance.
The event also marks the debut outing for the team’s all-new Ford F-Max trucks. The F-Max is this year’s International Truck of the Year and is a truly international Ford product – starting life in the Dunton design studio before being built and distributed by Ford Otosan in Turkey.
The two F-Max trucks will accompany the team throughout the remainder of the European season – keeping M-Sport Ford on track whilst being proudly displayed in the service parks of Europe.
Team Principal, Richard Millener, said:
“Having already proven our pace on snow and gravel, I’m confident that we can do the same on asphalt. The Fiesta has always had a good chassis for sealed-surface rallying, and the team have been working extremely hard to fine-tune the set-up and ensure we’re as ready as we can be.
“The vast majority of the route is new this year which provides something of a level playing field, and there’ll also be a real element of endurance on Friday when we complete the whole day without service. The crews are going to have to be especially focused and a clever drive could well bring home the points.
“Elfyn loves this event and he’s done well here in the past. It’s where he first led a round of the championship and I see no reason why he can’t repeat the podium he secured last time out in Mexico. The competition will be fierce, but we’ve got as good a chance as anyone!
“Teemu started his career on asphalt but this is the only event he’s not yet tackled with a world rally car. I think we’ll see some good speed from him again this weekend, but he won’t have a fantastic road position and his goal is to finish all of the stages for maximum experience.”
TOUR DE CORSE:10,000 CORNERS
Known as the Rally of 10,000 Corners, the Tour de Corse is one of the most iconic events on the FIA World Rally Championship calendar. Not only is the island event the first pure asphalt rally of the year, but it’s also a tough test of endurance, focus and skill with narrow roads than wind their way through the mountains.
This year’s route has been heavily revised once again with more than two-thirds of the stage distance differing from last year. The event gets underway in the southern town of Porto-Vecchio and the onus will be on endurance with no service before the return to the Bastia-based service park that evening.
Saturday’s action accounts for more than half the rally’s competitive distance, and the final day incorporates two tests in the Balagne region before a ceremonial finish in the north-western town of Calvi.
The asphalt may not be as abrasive as it once was, but there remains plenty to catch out the unwary. Pacenotes must be made and delivered with pin-point accuracy as the narrow roads leave little room for error. And this rally can just as easily be won and lost on the pre-event reconnaissance as it can on the stages themselves!
ELFYN EVANS AND SCOTT MARTIN
Elfyn Evans and Scott Martin will be looking to follow their Rally Mexico podium with a similar result at next week’s Tour de Corse. The Welshman has historically gone well at the Corsican fixture. It’s where he first led a round of the FIA World Rally Championship and he’ll be aiming to secure another strong result at the event next week.
Previous starts: 4
Best result: 2nd (2015)
Elfyn Evans said:
“I’m looking forward to the first proper Tarmac event of the season, but this year’s Tour de Corse will be a real challenge with about two-thirds of the route made up of completely new stages. The recce is going to be really important and there’s going to be a lot of work needed on the pacenotes.
“This is a demanding rally but the stages themselves are really nice to drive. It was great to get a podium last time out in Mexico, and that really propelled us up the championship standings. It gives us a top-five starting position next week, and we need to capitalise on that and aim for another strong result.
“We spent two days testing together with Teemu and the car feels really good. Everything went to plan and I feel as though we should have some good pace. We’re all looking for another podium and will work as hard as we can to achieve it.”
TEEMU SUNINEN AND MARKO SALMINEN
Teemu Suninen may have started his career on asphalt, but the Tour de Corse remains the only event that he has not yet contested with the power and performance of a world rally car. The young Finn has contested the event on three previous occasions as part of the WRC 2 category, and he and co-driver Marko Salminen will have their eyes on a clean and tidy drive next week.
Previous starts: 3
Best result: 8th (2017)
Teemu Suninen said:
“I’m really looking forward to the first pure asphalt event of the year. I started my career on this surface – but driving a go-kart is quite different to mastering a world rally car!
“In preparation, Elfyn and I split a couple of days testing and the car felt really good. On a rally like the Tour de Corse it’s really important to find a good balance with the car and I think we managed that.
“I didn’t compete here last year and the route is said to be quite different this year. From what I understand, the stages are slightly faster and a bit closer to the type we see in Catalunya.
“It will be interesting to see, but for us the most important thing is to finish the rally with a clean bill of health. If we can do that it will make the next part of the season mentally so much easier.”