M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Teemu Suninen, Esapekka Lappi and Gus Greensmith persevered to bring their EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRCs home line astern at this weekend’s Rally Estonia – in sixth, seventh and eighth places respectively.
And in the FIA World Rally Championship’s premier support series, Adrien Fourmaux delivered an impressive performance to bring his EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta Rally2 home on the second step of the podium.
Signalling the championship’s return to action, the team got off to the perfect start as Lappi took an early lead through the opening speed test. But as the action turned to fast country lanes outside the host city of Tartu, the going got tough.
Lacking confidence in the fast sections, Lappi and co-driver Janne Ferm focused on delivering a clean run through the closing stages – only to be caught out in the ruts. Forced into a spin on the second pass of Kaagvere (SS16), 10 seconds were lost along with a position to team mate Suninen.
Having not driven the top-specification Fiesta on fast gravel for more than a year, it took some time for Suninen to find his rhythm – but he and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen looked much more comfortable in today’s slippery conditions.
Closing the gap to the leaders, and reigning in team mate Lappi, the young Finn secured sixth place – a creditable position considering the lack of seat-time when compared to his more seasoned rivals.
Contesting Rally Estonia for the first time this weekend, Greensmith and co-driver Elliott Edmondson had much to learn, but the Brits held their own and delivered some notable progress throughout the event.
Starting the rally a second a kilometre away from his team mates, the youngster was soon up to speed and within two tenths of his fellow Fiesta drivers – proving his ability to learn with experience.
Also showcasing his skills as a quick learner, Fourmaux’s result was made all the more impressive when considering this is only his fifth gravel event with a four-wheel-drive Fiesta – two of which were based at the team’s testing facility in Greystoke forest.
Going up against strong competition – including two-time Rally Estonia winner and this year’s WRC 2 category winner Mads Østberg – the young Frenchman impressed with a string of highly competitive and consistent times.
Leading the rally in the early stages he and co-driver Renaud Jamoul showcased the winning-pace and performance of the Ford Fiesta Rally2, before picking up a puncture on the first pass of Elva (SS6) and fighting their way back up to the runner-up spot.
Team Principal, Richard Millener, said:
“I think we achieved what we wanted to achieve this weekend, which was to get back rallying and get back into the rhythm. Adrien also delivered a really impressive drive with the Ford Fiesta Rally2, and it was great to see him secure another thoroughly-deserved podium in the WRC 2 category.
“When you consider how little experience he has on gravel, it makes his performance all the more impressive – especially when you look at some of the big names he was going up against. Leading the rally through the early stages, he showcased the performance of the car and proved he’s a real talent for the future.
“But in the main team, we knew that it would be difficult to challenge for the top results. We didn’t have the luxury of doing the same level of testing as our rivals and when you’re not in the fight it just becomes that much harder. I know all three drivers enjoyed being back behind the wheel, and I’m confident that we will come back stronger on the next events.
“Finally, on behalf of the whole team, I have to credit the organisers who have delivered an incredible rally here this weekend. If you look at what they’ve managed to achieve in such a short space of time it’s extremely impressive – especially given the current circumstances. They’ve certainly proved themselves worthy of a spot on the calendar, and the only downside was that we couldn’t fully share it with the fans.”
Teemu Suninen (6th) said:
“It’s been a really difficult weekend for us. It took a while to get back in the rhythm, but it was good to be back after such a long time away. We were trying our best and today the times were a bit better, but we know that there is still some work to do. Now I’m looking forward to Turkey and Sardinia. We were strong at both those rallies last year, and I hope it will be the same again this year.”
Esapekka Lappi (7th) said:
“Firstly I have to say that the organisers have done a fantastic job this weekend. Everything worked smoothly with no problems and it really was an amazing job from everyone involved. It was good to be back in the rally car and to show some pace in the beginning, but after that it became a really challenging weekend for us. There is a lot of work to do on these type of stages, but hopefully in Turkey and Sardinia we can be stronger.”
Gus Greensmith (8th) said:
“We knew it wasn’t going to be an easy weekend as we didn’t have the same experience or preparation as some of the other guys. But we were able to make some improvements throughout the weekend and the times got better the more kilometres we did. Also a big thanks to everyone at M‑Sport. They’ve been working really hard, and it was a big effort from everyone here and back in Cumbria.”
Adrien Fourmaux (2nd, WRC 2) said:
“I’m really happy with our weekend and this result is honestly better than we expected. This was only my fifth gravel rally with this car, and there were a lot of really fast and experienced guys here this weekend.
“These type of stages are so different to what I’ve experienced back in France and in the UK, so to adapt as quickly as we did and be fighting with these experienced guys was really great.
"The car was also perfect all weekend so a big thanks to the team who did an amazing job. The whole weekend was really great.”