M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRCs are preparing to tackle the second and only winter round of the FIA World Rally Championship at next week’s Rally Sweden. With mild weather creating challenging conditions, the rally will run a reduced schedule but the team remain eager to show what they can do.
Chasing the most accurate and representative conditions ahead of the event, Esapekka Lappi and Teemu Suninen will conduct a pre-event test on location this weekend. Discovering the conditions and how they could impact set-up and tyre management, the team will learn all they can before heading direct to the rally which gets underway with a one-day reconnaissance on Wednesday.
M-Sport Ford has a strong track record at the Swedish fixture – with six victories and 24 podiums at the highest level since 1997, and five wins and 13 podiums in the premier support series since 2010. Looking to replicate those successes next week, the team’s ‘Ladder of Opportunity’ is well represented and the Blue Oval accounts for 44 percent of the entry.
Running the Fiesta WRCs as well as two Ford Fiesta R5 MkIIs in the WRC 2 category, Rally Sweden also marks the start of this year’s FIA Junior WRC Championship – a one-make feeder series in which 16 of the sport’s brightest future stars will go head-to-head in identical Ford Fiesta R2T19s prepared by M-Sport Poland.
Team Principal, Richard Millener, said:
“Rally Sweden is an iconic event in the FIA World Rally Championship, and I think we’re all grateful to Glenn [Olsson, Rally Sweden CEO] and his team for all their hard work in ensuring it goes ahead in what have been some very challenging conditions. It’s not been easy with the mild weather, but the organisers have been extremely proactive over the last few weeks – working closely with the teams and the FIA and ensuring everything’s in place to deliver another close-fought rally. It will be a very different event to what we’re used to, but the main thing is that we will have an event.
“Historically this has always been a strong rally for us, and we’re confident of another strong showing next week. Esapekka and Teemu both did well here last year – Esapekka claiming the runner-up spot and Teemu leading a rally for the first time in his career. The Fiesta was also very competitive with five stage wins, and we plan to replicate that this year. Due to delays with the event finalisation, the team will get their first taste of the conditions at a pre-event test this weekend – but that should give us an accurate and up-to-date view of the expected conditions; and we’re ready show what we can do.”
ESAPEKKA LAPPI / JANNE FERM
Claiming a solid fourth place at the season opener in Monte-Carlo last month, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm will be looking to build on that performance next week. Rally Sweden is a successful event for the Finns who have never finished lower than fourth in their three previous encounters with the snow-covered stages. Finishing second at the event last year, the pairing were just shy of the podium in 2018 and secured a top-three position in the WRC 2 category when making their Rally Sweden debut in 2016.
Previous starts: 3
Best result: 2nd (2019)
Esapekka Lappi said:
“I’ve had some good results at Rally Sweden – especially last year when we finished second on our second event with a new car so let’s see if we can do the same again this year! Of course the competition will be strong and no one really knows what the conditions will be like, but we will give it our best.
“We’re testing this weekend when we’ll get our first indication of what to expect. The Swedish stages are always fast, which I enjoy, but there could only be a small layer of ice which will make tyre management pretty important when it comes to retaining the studs for the whole loop. Fourth on the road could be a decent position, but let’s wait and see.”
TEEMU SUNINEN / JARMO LEHTINEN
Rally Sweden is a strong event for Teemu Suninen who delivered a breakthrough performance on the frozen stages last year – stage-winning pace seeing him lead an event for the first time in his career. And with experienced co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen alongside him – a man with two wins and five podiums at the Swedish fixture – Suninen will be looking to combine his speed with renewed consistency this year.
Previous starts: 4
Best result: 8th (2018)
Teemu Suninen said:
“Last year we found a good set-up for the soft snow and rutted conditions, and it worked really well for us – leading after the first full day and showing good speed throughout the weekend. This year the plan is to show that same speed consistently and without mistakes.
“Of course a lot will depend on the weather. It’s great that the organisers have been able to make the rally happen, but we will have to wait and see what the conditions are like. I’m hoping for snow, and we’ll have a test this weekend to prepare. Whatever the weather, we will give it our best and I hope to be in a good battle.”