As this year’s FIA World Rally Championship ventures to the first gravel event on European soil, M-Sport Ford will field three EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRCs – with Gus Greensmith making his WRC debut alongside Elfyn Evans and Teemu Suninen at next week’s Vodafone Rally de Portugal.
Having secured a double podium with Evans and Suninen at the event last year, the team have high hopes of delivering another strong performance, and conducted a comprehensive four-day test in preparation – deciphering the optimum set-up and strategy to target another top result.
Team Principal, Richard Millener, said:
“Returning to Europe, the aim is to be back challenging for the podium. We weren’t quite where we wanted to be in Chile and Argentina. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t what we wanted – especially when you consider the strong performances we delivered at the start of the year.
“So our goal next week is to see a return of that form, and the team have been working hard to ensure that’s the case. The event team earnt themselves a few days off after three long weeks away, but the test team took up the mantle, and spent four days on location – learning and developing everything they could in the lead up to the event.
“We have to aim high. Elfyn and Teemu both finished on the podium here last year, and they’ve both got a lot of experience when it comes to this rally. They’re both capable of a good result, and it’ll just be a case of pulling everything together next week.
“Obviously for Gus it’s a little different, but a really exciting moment in his career. We’re proud to give another young driver this opportunity and I know how much he is looking forward to it. It’s important he doesn’t put too much pressure on himself as we all know how hard the transition can be at this level – but knowing Gus, he’ll be determined to make the most of it.”
RALLY DE PORTUGAL: PASSION AND PERFORMANCE
Portugal has a passion for motorsport, and Rally de Portugal has long been one of the most popular events on the FIA World Rally Championship calendar – attracting spectators and competitors in their droves!
Fast and technical gravel roads are the order of the rally, and their sandy surface can make road position a key consideration on the opening loop. The stages become more rocky and rutted over the second pass, and blind corners over crests are a regular occurrence – therefore the crews need to muster all of their skill, speed and bravery in pursuit of a strong result.
Thursday’s start ceremony has moved to the historic, riverfront city of Coimbra, and Friday’s roads have not been visited since 2001. The remainder of the rally is more familiar – Saturday’s stages are based around the Cabreira Mountains before Sunday’s action moves to the world-famous roads around Fafe.
ELFYN EVANS AND SCOTT MARTIN
Having secured second place at last year’s Rally de Portugal, Elfyn Evans will be looking for a similarly strong performance this year. Having contested the event on seven previous occasions, the Welshman has the experience and will be looking to couple that with the speed that he and co-driver Scott Martin displayed when they last competed in Europe.
Previous starts: 7
Best result: 2nd (2018)
Elfyn Evans said:
“Rally de Portugal is one of the classics. Most of the drivers have a lot of experience here, and everyone will be pushing for the top results – ourselves included. The Portuguese fans have a real passion for their motorsport, and everyone wants to do well in front of this crowd.
“We’ve always had pretty good speed here, and the whole team have been working hard to ensure that continues. We completed a day and a half of testing last week, and everything feels good. The competition is so close at the moment, but if it all comes together I see no reason why we can’t challenge for another strong result.”
TEEMU SUNINEN AND MARKO SALMINEN
Teemu Suninen secured his maiden podium at last year’s Rally de Portugal and has the potential to challenge for another strong result next week. Having led a rally for the first time earlier this year, the young Finn has also improved his consistency of late. Partnered by compatriot co-driver Marko Salminen, the pairing will be looking to pull everything together next week.
Previous starts: 4
Best result: 3rd (2018)
Teemu Suninen said:
"I have done this rally four times before, which means that only Rally Finland is more familiar to me! Having secured my first podium here last year, I hope that we can be in the fight for another strong result – and I feel quite optimistic that things could go well for us next week.
“Friday will be the toughest day with a lot of new stages that have a hard base, and will be more aggressive on the tyres. If there is a lot of cleaning we will need the confidence to make the most of our advantage – because the fight is always very tight at the moment."
GUS GREENSMITH AND ELLIOTT EDMONDSON
Next week’s Rally de Portugal will be a special event for Gus Greensmith as he makes his competitive debut behind the wheel of a new-generation world rally car. Partnered by fellow Brit Elliott Edmondson, the youngsters will have much to learn, but intend to enjoy every moment of what will be a landmark event in their respective careers.
Gus Greensmith said:
“I’ve spent the last ten years of my life preparing for this moment, and I can tell you that I feel ready to climb this mountain! But it’s not just about me – so many people have worked hard to get me to this point and it’s been a real collective effort. I’ll take the time to thank each and every one of them, but for now there is only one job I need to focus on.
“I don’t have any expectations other than to enjoy myself. I’m one of the very few to have been given an opportunity to drive one of these cars – so whatever happens, I will drive with a smile on my face, and hopefully we can make next weekend something positive for everyone involved.
“It’s also quite special for me to be making my debut in Portugal. I really love this country and the area around Porto – it really does feel like home when I walk out of the airport. Of course the stages are amazing to drive, but it’s the country and the Portuguese way of life that makes me feel so at ease.”