M-Sport Ford World Rally Team will field three EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRCs on their home round of the FIA Word Rally Championship at next week’s Wales Rally GB – Teemu Suninen and Pontus Tidemand joined by returning home hero Elfyn Evans.
Having to forego the last three events with a back injury, the Welshman is now fully recovered and ready to contest his home event. Having completed a full day of testing in the Welsh forests, Evans and co-driver Scott Martin are more than ready for their return and keen to resume their fight for rally wins as well as a coveted fourth place in the championship standings.
Suninen and Tidemand both completed a day of testing closer to M-Sport’s Cumbrian home in Greystoke forest. The young Finn is keen to continue his recent progress alongside experienced co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen, and is also locked in the intense battle for fourth place in the championship. And the Swede will be looking to show further progress as he and co-driver Ola Fløene take to the wheel of the top-specification Fiesta for only the second time on gravel.
The team will also be celebrating 10 years of partnership with Permashine – another family-run business who ensure M-Sport’s fleet of EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiestas are always looking their best, come rain or shine… gales, fog or even snow!
Team Principal, Richard Millener, said:
“I have been looking forward to this one all year. There’s always something special about competing at home, and this was the first WRC event I ever watched – so to come here looking after the team is a really special experience for me.
“It’s also fantastic to have Elfyn back with us. Teemu came into his own in Germany and Turkey, but there’s nothing quite like Elfyn’s experience – especially in Wales – and it’s a big boost for us all to have him here.
“All three drivers have a pretty good track record in the Welsh forests. Teemu won the event as part of the WRC 2 Championship in 2015, and Pontus has never finished lower than second in class – securing his own WRC 2 victory in 2017. And as for Elfyn, well we all know what he is capable of at home!
“It’s a tough event for everyone with incredibly long days that test the team as well as the crews, but if we can maintain focus I see no reason why we can’t be challenging for the top results. There’s a lot of ambition to do well next week, and we’ll be working hard to deliver another strong result on home soil.”
WALES RALLY GB: RALLYING ON HOME SOIL
Wales Rally GB plays host to some of the most challenging conditions the FIA World Rally Championship has to offer. With its unpredictable weather and long days, the crews are made to fight hard for the top results and it’s an event that every driver wants to win.
The fast gravel stages might not be particularly technical, but they are treacherously slippery when wet and there is a real art to reading the road’s constantly changing grip levels. Then there’s the fog and the night stages, where those with the most trust in their pacenotes can truly excel. And on Saturday, the crews will have to battle all of this without the luxury of a midday service break.
With the service park moving to the popular seaside resort of Llandudno and a Ceremonial Start in Liverpool followed by a spectator-friendly Super Special at Oulton Park, this year’s event has much to offer – all alongside some of rallying’s most iconic and legendary stages!
ELFYN EVANS / SCOTT MARTIN
Making a welcome return on home soil, Elfyn Evans knows what it takes to win in Wales. Securing victory at the event in 2017, he made history by becoming the first Welshman to win a round of the FIA World Rally Championship, and he’ll want to be in with a chance of adding to that next week. Preparing with a day’s testing in the Welsh forests, he and co-driver Scott Martin will be keen to give the home crowds something to cheer about this year.
Previous starts: 7
Best result: 1st (2017)
Elfyn Evans said:
“I’m really looking forward to getting back behind the wheel – especially as it’s on home soil in Wales. This event is the highlight of my year, every year, and when you get it right in front of all those Welsh flags it’s an incredible feeling.
“We have some of the best stages in the world in Wales, and it’s a proper challenge for the crews – especially if the Welsh weather has anything to say about it which I think it probably will next week. In those tricky conditions the grip levels are constantly changing and you have to be able to read the road if you want to push for the top results.
“We might have been away for a few months, but my motivation is as high as it ever was. We’ve had a good test, and I feel like we’re well prepared for the challenges ahead. And the goal, as always, is to push for the top results.”
TEEMU SUNINEN / JARMO LEHTINEN
Consistently improving his performance, Teemu Suninen is getting better and better and the young Finn will be on the hunt for another strong result next week. Already a winner in Wales when he lifted the WRC 2 trophy in 2015, Suninen was also in the mix for the podium positions last year, and will be keen to fight for another strong result under the guidance of experienced co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen.
Previous starts: 4
Best result: 11th / 1st WRC 2 (2015)
Teemu Suninen said:
“I really like this rally and have done well there in the past. I didn’t have a lot of experience of the stages last year, but I was really pleased with my performance – setting some good times and running in podium position before having to retire. So the goal this year will be to continue that performance, and see if we can challenge for the top positions.
“We completed a full day of testing in Greystoke and, even though the base there is a bit harder than what we’ll see in Wales, I think we manged to find a good set-up and will be able to deliver a good performance on these challenging stages.
“Maybe the biggest challenge though is the lack of sleep. Probably we will only get about four or five hours a night – and the road sections to the first stage can be pretty long. It will be physically and mentally challenging to stay alert in those first stages, but that is all part of the challenge in Wales.”
PONTUS TIDEMAND / OLA FLØENE
Having never finished outside of the top-two on his three WRC 2 appearances, Pontus Tidemand has a pretty impressive record through the Welsh forests. Upgrading to the Ford Fiesta WRC this year, the Swede will be tackling his second gravel event behind the wheel of a world rally car, and he and co-driver Ola Fløene will be keen to showcase their progress at the sport’s highest level.
Previous starts: 3
Best result: 10th (2018) / 1st WRC 2 (2017)
Pontus Tidemand said:
“I like Wales a lot and it’s a rally that suits me and my driving style quite well. I’ve done well there in the past which gives me more confidence, but I will still be competing against the best drivers in the world and am still continuing my own development.
“At the end of Rally Turkey I felt as though I’d found the right set-up for me and that I could drive how I wanted. We had a great test with the team earlier this week, and I’m feeling more and more at home with the car. And since Wales Rally GB will be my second gravel rally with the Ford Fiesta WRC, I hope we can show some improvements.
“The biggest challenge in Wales is always the unpredictable weather. We need to be prepared for everything – rain, fog, mud and constant grip changes. The roads might not be technically tricky, but the conditions are really unpredictable and that’s what makes it so challenging. The stages also change their character depending on what area we are in, and we need to be able to adjust to all of these different surface changes.”