Fortune’s wheel is forever turning, and that was certainly the case for the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRCs at Rally Italia Sardegna today.
Having taken an early lead through yesterday’s stages, Teemu Suninen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen had their sights firmly set on a second podium of the year.
But whilst holding second position, the Finns developed an issue with the handbrake and were unable to precisely manoeuvre the tight hairpins through the morning stages.
Dropping time to the championship contenders, Suninen fell from second to fifth and ends the day 8.5 seconds shy of the championship leader in the overall standings.
Gus Greensmith and Elliott Edmondson had also been delivering their best-ever performance behind the wheel of the top-specification Fiesta.
Regularly outperforming the championship contenders, the pairing were hoping for more of the same today before an impact with a huge rock on the line resulted in an issue with the alternator belt – quite literally putting paid to their charge.
The Brits successfully changed the belt on the liaison to the final stage of the morning, but with no charge and no way of jump-starting their Fiesta, their day came to a frustrating end.
Elsewhere in the WRC 2 category, Adrien Fourmaux and Renaud Jamoul were hunting down the rally lead before their day also came to a disappointing end.
Taking time out of their rival on both of the opening stages, the Franco-Belgian pairing had reduced a 31.9 second deficit to just 18.2 seconds.
Embarking on the third stage of the day, they looked set to half the deficit once more before front-suspension damage put them out of contention. With damage to the rollcage, their EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta Rally2 will not restart tomorrow.
Team Principal, Richard Millener, said:
“After the highs of yesterday, it’s fair to say that we’ve experienced some lows today. Teemu lost quite a lot of time and positions with a handbrake issue this morning, but he’s not too far away from Elfyn and we have some tricky stages coming up tomorrow. We need to keep the pressure on and I know Teemu will give it his best.
“Gus was also delivering a really solid performance and the progress he’s made over the past couple of weeks is really impressive – so it was a big shame about what happened today. It looks as though a stone has taken the alternator belt. He was able to fix it on the road section, but with no charge and a flat piece of road he had no hope of getting going again.
“In WRC 2 Adrien was also delivering a really great drive. He pretty much halved the gap to the lead in two stages and was on course to half it again when he got caught out in a cut and damaged the suspension. It’s easy to forgot how little experience he had on this surface, and the pace is there which is the most important thing at this point in his career.”
Teemu Suninen (5th) said:
“It’s been a challenging day for us. It started okay this morning – we lost a few seconds to the guys at the front but we were on good pace with Elfyn. Then we had some issues with the handbrake and lost a lot of time in the slower sections.
“But we came back again in the afternoon – taking time out of Elfyn on the first stage [SS11] and then losing a bit to him on the second [SS12]. It’s going to be a tight fight tomorrow, and I will give it my best. It’s only two seconds per stage, and we will keep the pressure on.”
Gus Greensmith (29th) said:
“It was one of the best days of my career yesterday. I was really pleased with the way I was driving and really pleased with the car – everything was working well. It started okay again this morning – maybe my paceotes were a little bit slow and the second spare wasn’t the best choice, but we seemed to make it work.
“Unfortunately we then had a low voltage warning on SS9 and as soon as we left the stop line the whole car died – right in the bottom of a dip! So even though we managed to change the alternator belt, we could never get enough momentum to bump start it. After about 45 minutes of trying we had to call it a day, and tomorrow we’ll just focus on continuing the improvements we have made so far.”
Adrien Fourmaux (DNF) said:
“I was trying to get back to the lead and made a small mistake in one of the cuts. There was a small compression that pushed me out of the line – then in the next corner, I hit a rock on the inside with the wheel open and broke the suspension.
“It’s not how we wanted to finish the weekend, but still I am happy with our pace. It is always a very difficult rally here in Sardinia and we had good speed on all of the stages. And of course I need to remember that this is only my 13th rally in WRC – which is not such a lucky number!”