M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRCs were prepared in record time ahead of this week’s Rally Italia Sardegna – the Cumbrian squad working throughout the night to be ready for one of the their most successful events.
Since its debut in 2017, the top-specification Fiesta has never finished shy of the Rally Italia podium and the team would love to continue that trend with Esapekka Lappi, Teemu Suninen and Gus Greensmith this year.
The Fiestas arrived back at Dovenby Hall last Monday and, having completed two rallies on the bounce, the technicians had some serious work to do – including a full repair of the damage sustained after Suninen’s excursion on the Rally Estonia Shakedown.
In fact Suninen’s Fiesta didn’t make it back from the paint shop until last Wednesday afternoon, but the technicians buckled down and a couple of late, ‘pie and pea,’ suppers in the workshop ensured the Fiestas were loaded onto the trucks in time for their Saturday morning departure.
Team Principal, Richard Millener, said:
“Firstly, I need to say a massive thanks to our technicians. They’ve put in some serious work to make sure the cars are ready for the rally and without their hard work and dedication we simply wouldn’t have been able to go rallying this week.
“We’ve always performed well in Sardinia and I hope that will be the case again this year. The event is running a little later than usual, and the last time that happened there were a few surprises – including both of our junior drivers, Ott Tänak and Evgeny Novikov, finishing on the podium!
“The weather could make for an unpredictable event and the engineers will also have a lot to think about when it comes to set-ups and tyre strategies with two loops run back-to-back without a service on both Friday and Saturday morning.
“It’s certainly going to be an interesting rally and I think another exciting one for the fans as well. I can’t wait to get out there and see what we can do – and if luck is on our side this time then I think we can deliver a good result with all of our drivers.”
ESAPEKKA LAPPI / JANNE FERM
Rally Italia Sardegna will always be a special place for Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm as it’s where the pairing delivered their very first stage win – posting the fastest time through the first pass of ‘Tergu - Osil’ in 2017. The pairing also secured a podium finish at the event in 2018, and will be tackling the Sardinian stages for the sixth time this year.
Esapekka Lappi said:
“We’re heading to Sardinia a bit later than usual so things could be a little different this year. The temperatures might not be as high, and the weather could be a bit more unpredictable. This has never been an event where you can push flat-out all the time, and that could be even truer this year. We’ll have to complete two loops of stages without service so there’ll be a compromise to consider when deciding set-ups and tyre strategies that will work over both passes. It’s going to be a challenging weekend, but we’re determined to produce a good result and I think this is an event where we have a good chance of doing that.”
TEEMU SUNINEN / JARMO LEHTINEN
Rally Italia Sardegna is also a special event for Teemu Suninen. The Finn won the WRC 3 category in 2015, the WRC 2 category in 2016 and secured a career-best result at the event last year. Partnered by Jarmo Lehtinen for the very first time, the Finn secured three stage wins on his way to second place and finished just 13.7 seconds adrift of the victory.
Teemu Suninen said:
“I’ve always performed well in Sardinia and it’s an event I look forward to every year. It’s the first event I did with Jarmo, and where I secured my best ever result last year. Of course we’ll be competing in the autumn this time which will make things a bit different, but I hope we’ll be able to show the same good pace. As always in Sardinia, we’ll need to be really focused and careful to mark every stone on the recce. We’ll also have to think carefully about the set-up and strategy as we’ll have to drive two loops without service – meaning that myself and Jarmo will have to make any changes remotely with what we carry in the car.”
GUS GREENSMITH / ELLIOTT EDMONDSON
Gus Greensmith and Elliott Edmondson may have only contested the Sardinian event on one previous occasion, but the young Brits are coming off the back of a career-best fifth place at Rally Turkey. Keen to showcase their development at the sport’s highest level, they’ll be looking for another strong result to bolster all they have learnt over the past few months.
Gus Greensmith said:
“I’ve only competed in Sardinia once before, but I really like the island and the stages. They’re not quite as rough as those in Turkey, but they’re certainly not smooth and we will need to deliver another good performance if we want to secure another good result this week. That’s our aim and I see no reason why we can’t achieve it. We know from Teemu’s performance last year that the car is suited to Sardinia’s stages, and I also feel as though I am developing better consistency every time I get behind the wheel.”
ADRIEN FOURMAUX / RENAUD JAMOUL
Adrien Fourmaux may have only contested Rally Italia Sardegna on one previous occasion, and never with four-wheel-drive machinery, but the young Frenchman will be in a positive mood having secured victory on his world rally car debut at the famous Rally Legend last weekend. Contesting the San Marino based event with co-driver Renaud Jamoul, the Frenchman secured the victory by an impressive one minute and 43 seconds. Returning to the Ford Fiesta Rally2 this week, the youngster will be pushing for an equally strong result in the WRC 2 category.
Adrien Fourmaux said:
“Rally Legend was a fantastic event, and to drive the Ford Fiesta WRC was like a dream come true. It was a brilliant weekend with a brilliant atmosphere, and I hope the experience will help me as I return to the Ford Fiesta Rally2 and WRC 2 this week. Although I’ve only contested Rally Italia Sardegna once before, I’m looking forward to the challenge and hope to be able to push for the top results once again.”