M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Elfyn Evans and Teemu Suninen have made it through a challenging opening day at this weekend’s Rally Argentina – their EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRCs currently holding sixth and ninth places respectively.
The Argentine stages are challenging at the best of times, but heavy thunderstorms in the lead up to the rally made them even more demanding today – deep water splashes and treacherously slippery conditions making the balance between speed and survival a key part of the game.
Those with the confidence to push through the challenging conditions were able to reap the rewards, and those who drove with an air of caution suffered as a result.
Adopting the best of both worlds, Evans and co-driver Scott Martin are locked in an intense midfield battle with much to play for over the remainder of the event. Just 24.8 seconds adrift of the podium with 200 challenging kilometres left to contest, the team have not lost sight of another strong result and the British pairing will be pushing to rekindle that tomorrow.
With only one previous outing on the Argentine stages, Suninen had to finish the day unscathed and restrain his desire to push through the challenging conditions. The young Finn also had to contend with his Fiesta taking in water through the enlarged water splashes, but he and co-driver Marko Salminen kept it on the road to take the maximum experience.
Team Principal, Richard Millener, said:
“It’s not the start we wanted, but we could see how challenging the conditions were. It’s been a tough day and I think quite hard to judge the balance between being safe and pushing hard – and those with the confidence to do the latter were able to make some pretty big gains!
“Elfyn was there or thereabouts through most of the stages, but those little hesitations here and there soon add up. He’s fallen from the fight at the front, but he’s still just over 20 seconds off the podium – and with two days to go we’re not about to give up the fight just yet.
“With only one previous outing here it was important for Teemu to get the mileage under his belt. He had a few issues with the water splashes – and it can also be frustrating when you know you have to finish – but he’s kept it on the road and got the experience he needed.”
Elfyn Evans (6th) said:
“Obviously it’s not where we wanted to be at the end of the day, but we’re not a million miles away and there is still a long way to go. I felt that we were driving quite well at points, but I didn’t always have the feeling to push that little bit more – just struggling with the balance here and there. The midfield battle is pretty close, so we have to keep fighting for the best possible position tomorrow.”
Teemu Suninen (9th) said:
“Today has been quite difficult. The conditions have changed a lot from the recce with a lot more mud and a lot of surprising places. This made it difficult to get into a good rhythm as I was always expecting some tricky conditions. But then on the second loop when I had a bit more knowledge I was able to improve my times – except on the last stage where the engine took in some water and we lost some time.”
1. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) 1:11:13.9
2. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Citroen C3 WRC) +11.9
3. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +13.4
4. Kris Meeke / Sebastian Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +28.1
5. Andreas Mikkelsen / Ander Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +29.4
6. Elfyn Evans / Scott Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +38.2
7. Dani Sordo / Carlos del Barrio (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +41.1
8. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:13.6
9. Teemu Suninen / Marko Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:59.2