M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Teemu Suninen and Jarmo Lehtinen are hunting down their second podium of the year – their EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC currently holding second place at Rally Italia Sardegna.
Making the perfect start to their weekend, the Finns claimed a 12.4 second advantage through the opening speed test – and were more than a second per kilometre quicker than anyone else through the opening 12.08 kilometres!
The trend continued with a second fastest time on the following stage but, after losing the front splitter on the third, the aerodynamics of his top-specification Fiesta were somewhat reduced and he was forced to relinquish his lead.
The Finn then took a mix of medium and hard compound tyres for the afternoon and, while the mix didn’t work in his favour, he maintained good speed to consolidate second position ahead of another full day of rallying tomorrow.
Gus Greensmith and Elliott Edmondson were also delivering an impressive drive and arguably their best performance behind the wheel of the Ford Fiesta WRC. Despite an overshoot on the first stage, it didn’t take long for the Brits to get up to speed and they were soon on the pace.
Outperforming the championship contenders through a number of stages, Greensmith has shown great improvement since the season restart and will be looking for more of the same tomorrow.
Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm had also made a strong start to the rally and were holding second place behind Suninen after the opening speed test. But the Finns’ luckless season continued as they were forced to retire with an engine issue.
Losing water, the pairing’s day came to an end at the side of the second speed test and they will unfortunately not restart tomorrow.
Elsewhere in the WRC 2 category, Adrien Fourmaux and Renaud Jamoul were delivering another impressive drive behind the wheel of the EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta Rally2.
Overcoming a couple of overshoots and a puncture through the morning stages, the Frenchman held a 15 second lead. But he would not be so lucky when picking up a second puncture through the afternoon’s stages.
Losing more than a minute driving on the delaminated front-left tyre, the Frenchman ended the day in second place – 30 seconds shy of the lead.
Team Principal, Richard Millener, said:
“It’s great to see Teemu up there challenging for the top positions. That first time this morning was incredible, and it just goes to show that the potential is there. We’ve always been strong here, as has Teemu, so we knew that we had a pretty good chance; and it’s provided a really important boost for the team.
“Gus has also had a really strong day and I think his best in a world rally car. He’s really upped his pace today and got a lot closer to the leading pack. That fifth place in Turkey was a big confidence boost for him, and I hope he can continue building on that throughout the weekend.
“But obviously it was a big disappointment about what happened to Esapekka. His pace was right there, second fastest on the first stage, but he didn’t get much of a chance to show it and unfortunately won’t restart again tomorrow.
“As for Adrien, he’s had a pretty eventful day in the WRC 2 category. Despite a couple of overshoots, almost rolling and picking a puncture through the morning stages he still held a 15 second lead coming into the midday service! Another puncture dropped him down to second place this afternoon, but with his pace and two days of rallying still to go anything can happen.”
Teemu Suninen (2nd) said:
“We had a really good morning and I think we proved what we can do. On that first stage I knew it was going to be challenging for everyone and I tried to take as many seconds as I could – which worked out really well. We lost some aero after that which cost us some time, but it was still a good morning.
“Then in the afternoon the tyre choice didn’t really work out for us. We thought it was going to be a bit warmer, but the sun went down just as the last stage started and I wasn’t able to make the most of the hard tyres.
“Still it was a really good day for us, and tomorrow we just have to focus on our own driving and let the others do their own thing. The stages will be a bit faster tomorrow, but the main thing is to do my best – because that’s the way to get the best results.”
Gus Greensmith (6th) said:
“This has definitely been one of my better drives and I’m pretty happy with the way things have gone. There were a few little mistakes here and there, and I was a bit disappointed with myself on the first stage this afternoon (SS5) as I think we could have really taken a big chunk out of the people around us. But the time wasn’t too bad, and I can definitely see an improvement which was exactly what we wanted from this weekend.”
Esapekka Lappi (DNF) said:
“Our initial pace was really promising so it’s really disappointing that things had to end the way they did. It was all over pretty quickly to be honest. About 300 metres before I stopped we got all the warnings on the screen and the steam from the bonnet and we knew then that it was over. We had a good look and couldn’t see any impacts, but there was no water left in the engine and unfortunately we won’t be back out again tomorrow.”
Adrien Fourmaux (2nd WRC 2) said:
“We were leading until we got a puncture in the fifth stage. Of course that was disappointing, but still I can honestly say that I’ve enjoyed my day. We had good pace and we have to be happy with that. The rally is still long and nothing is decided so we have to just continue what we’ve been doing so far. The stages are a bit different tomorrow – faster and sandier. It will be a new challenge and a new set-up, so let’s see what we can do. I really like the look of tomorrow's stages so I hope it will be another good day for us.”