M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Teemu Suninen and Jarmo Lehtinen are in the fight for the top results at this weekend’s Rally Mexico – their EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC currently holding second place; 13.2 seconds adrift of the top spot.
Hinting at his potential with the fastest time through the first pass of Shakedown yesterday afternoon, Suninen did not disappoint. And following a solid start in the historic town of Guanajuato yesterday evening, he only improved as the action turned to gravel.
Securing second place through the first stage of the morning, the young Finn consolidated his position as the day wore on. And as others faltered, Suninen stayed strong – his pace and consistency seeing him well placed to challenge for the top results.
Gus Greensmith and Elliott Edmondson are also on course for a good haul of points in sixth place overall. The young Brits may have hoped for a little more this weekend, but they’ve kept their noses clean and continue to improve their pace whilst gaining vital knowledge of these specialist stages.
The day was however marred by the dramatic retirement of Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm – their Fiesta engulfed in flames at the end of SS7.
The Finns were in fourth place and closing on the podium when disaster struck. And despite the best efforts of the crew, there was nothing they could do to save the car – which burnt out on the road section after Lappi heroically drove it away from the stop line.
The reality of a lost car is a bitter blow for the privately-run M-Sport team, but thankfully, and most importantly, everyone came away from the incident safe and unharmed.
Team Principal, Richard Millener, said:
“Teemu is doing really well and this is exactly the performance he needs right now. We all know what he’s capable of, and he’s proving that this weekend. It’s great to see him getting back into his rhythm, and he’s in the fight for a top result which is exactly where we want to be. Gus is also having a solid drive – getting that experience under his belt and improving stage by stage.
“But we also suffered a big blow today – Esapekka having to retire from the event when his Fiesta caught fire at the end of SS7. It’s hard to tell exactly what happened, but it looks as though some hot oil may have leaked onto the exhaust. Everyone tried their best to put out the flames, but once these cars go up it’s almost impossible to stop – so full credit to Esapekka and Janne for getting it to a safe place.
“It’s no secret that this loss will really have a big impact on M-Sport – and we don’t know when the championship will resume which makes the situation really difficult right now. But despite all of this and all of the repercussions, the most important thing is that everyone is safe and unharmed.”
Teemu Suninen (2nd) said:
“It’s been a really good and trouble-free day for us. I was sending the car into the corners and driving on the limits – which is what you need to do if you want to push for the top results at this level. We will try and hold our podium place tomorrow, but at the same time I want to make sure I bring the car to the finish and will focus on myself and on continuing the good rhythm we had today.”
Gus Greensmith (6th) said:
“I just haven’t been able to get into my rhythm today and I’m a long way off where I wanted to be. We’ve not had the speed we were hoping for, but Teemu has proven that the car is quick so it’s all down to me! The objective now is just to focus on improvements, and bring the car home for some good points.”
Esapekka Lappi (DNF) said:
“On the stop line we understood that the rear of the car was on fire, but in that moment I didn’t realise how bad it was. We tried to put it out and drove on to a safer place, but when I lost the brakes I realised it was still burning quite bad – and jumped out as quickly as I could!
“I don’t know what caused it as there was no issue on the stage and it was actually a pretty good time. We were going well and fighting for the podium, so it’s a really big disappointment for us and for the whole team. But everyone is okay, and that is the most important thing right now.”