M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Teemu Suninen and Jarmo Lehtinen brought their EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC home in fifth place at this weekend’s Rally Italia Sardegna – the final gravel event of this year’s FIA World Rally Championship.
Getting off to the perfect start, Suninen claimed an early lead on Friday morning and was a full second a kilometre quicker than anyone else through the opening speed test. Despite losing some aerodynamic aids and opting for a less advantageous tyre choice through the second pass, he maintained good pace and ended the day in a strong second place.
Embarking on the weekend stages, the Flying Finn had his sights firmly set on a second podium of the year – adding to the third place he secured at Rally Mexico back in March. But luck wasn’t to be on his side and an issue with the handbrake on Saturday morning prevented a maximum attack – relegating him from second to fifth in the process.
Consolidating his fifth position through today’s closing stages, Suninen should take comfort from the flashes of brilliance shown this weekend and will be looking to prove his potential once again when the championship turns to asphalt for the final two rounds of the season.
Delivering their best performance behind the wheel of the top-specification Fiesta, Gus Greensmith and Elliott Edmondson outperformed the championship contenders through a number of stages on Friday, but their charge was quite literally halted on Saturday.
Following an unlucky impact with a rock on the line, the pairing developed an electrical issue – losing charge through the stage and coming to a halt in a dip after the stop line. Putting their mechanical skills to the test, the youngsters were able to replace the alternator belt, but with no charge and no way of restarting their Fiesta their day came to a frustrating end.
Returning to action today, the duo continued to put all they have learnt into practice and will be looking to show further improvements when the FIA World Rally Championship turns to asphalt next month.
Team Principal, Richard Millener, said:
“The event couldn’t have got off to a better start, and that time from Teemu was the boost everyone needed. In the right conditions, we’re as competitive as we’ve ever been and that is a big positive for the team right now.
“Teemu should also take a lot of confidence from his performance on that first day. We still have some work to do on the consistency, but the pace is there and that’s something that you can’t teach. We were hoping for a bit more of a fight today, but the championship contenders were pushing so hard and in the end it was just a case of consolidating the position.
“Gus should also be really proud of his performance this weekend – and I would say his best ever drive in a world rally car. He was right there through Friday’s stages and on course for another really strong result before that unlucky impact. Still, I think he really enjoyed this weekend and the improvement is clear to see.”
Teemu Suninen (5th) said:
“We started this rally really strongly and had great speed in the slower sections – proving that we can be competitive when the conditions are right. But we also had some small issues and were struggling a bit in the faster sections – meaning that fifth was the best we could do this weekend. Still there are a lot of positives that we can take away, and we’ll focus now on the Tarmac rallies where the Fiesta has always been strong.”
Gus Greensmith (25th) said:
“I think we made some really good steps forward this weekend, and a lot of that was due to the time I spent at M-Sport before the rally. Going through all of the data with my engineer we were able to find a lot of ways to improve and also tried something new with the set-up which gave me a lot more confidence. For me it was definitely one of my better performances. It was pretty disappointing about some of the issues we had, but that’s rallying and we’ve shown that we can fight a lot closer to the top.”