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NEWS

FOURMAUX PROVES PUMA PROWESS IN PORTUGAL

Technical and demanding, tough and gruelling, this year’s Rally Portugal was no different from usual. M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s crews battled through the rally’s varied tests, with Adrien Fourmaux and Alex Coria securing another faultless finish. Claiming a fantastic fourth overall, the Frenchman continues his run of strong finishes in the 2024 World Rally Championship. 


Both Grégoire Munster and Louis Louka in the Puma Rally1, and William Creighton partnered by Liam Regan in the Rally2, also gave strong performances over the weekend whilst each dealing with their own bouts of adversity, supporting their driver development and giving both valuable insight and experience of the famous Rally Portugal. 


Thursday evening’s seaside super special stage at Figueira da Foz kicked off the rally with a clean run for all the M-Sport crews. Despite needing to manage tyres ahead of the next day’s driving, Fourmaux posted a sixth-fastest time in good preparation for the long Friday challenge. 


With only a tyre-fitting zone to punctuate the two loops of four and five stages respectively on Friday, both Fourmaux and Munster delivered good and consistent paces throughout the day and avoided any issues. Fourmaux would keep in touch with the leading drivers, closing gaps to the top-times throughout the afternoon loop. After a full day of driving in tough conditions, only 31.8 seconds would separate the top seven drivers, with Fourmaux’s sights set on gaining overall positions on Saturday. 


Fourmaux and co-driver Coria would continue on excellent form over the course of the second day, fighting with the rally’s top drivers and gathering pace to set top-three times and gain two positions before the midday service. Perfectly balancing speed and the mechanical sympathy required to survive in Portugal, the French pairing would maintain their position, and claim the fastest time on the day’s fan-favourite, side-by-side Lousada Super Special Stage and close the gap to fourth overall ahead of Sunday.


Fourmaux would crucially call on this year’s record for consistency on Sunday morning, putting down a good fourth-fastest time on the opening stage of the day and advancing himself into fourth overall. Expertly maintaining this position, including a third-fastest time on the penultimate stage, Fourmaux arrived at the finish line with another brilliant result to add to this championship roster; he now sits fourth in the drivers’ standings, only eight points adrift from third. 


However, Munster and co-driver Louka’s rally would go in a slightly different direction. With limited experience in Portugal and with gaps to his teammate, Munster worked to find his feet on the opening stages on Friday morning. Importantly focusing on his own performance, he would improve his stage times throughout Friday’s afternoon loop and finish the day 9th overall.


But despite avoiding any trouble on Friday, Munster’s Saturday pace would be hampered by a fuelling issue, causing him to stop in the already-gruelling 37 km Amarante stage to attempt repairs. Nursing the issue through the remainder of the loop, attempts were made to fix the car in service, but the issue sadly returned in the afternoon, impacting his speed and dropping him to 14th overall. 


Sunday morning would start on a good note for the Luxembourg driver, keeping in sight of his competitors and gaining back two positions. Unfortunately, on SS21, Munster slid off the road and became beached at the side of the stage, calling for his undue retirement before the rally end.


William Creighton’s weekend was also one of learning, his first WRC round on gravel in the Fiesta Rally2. Maintaining a good position amongst a busy field of experienced competitors, Creighton set himself in good stead on Friday and was 10th overall at the midday tyre-fitting zone. But after incurring damage to the front suspension during SS8, the crew had to stop to make repairs, running over their allowed lateness forcing their retirement for the day.


Back on the road on Saturday, the Irish pairing of Creighton and Regan struggled to find a good rhythm but gathered pace in the afternoon, along with more crucial experience of the car and the stages in Portugal. Thanks to his determined and measured approach on Saturday and Sunday, Creighton fought his way back up to 12th overall in the WRC2 category. 


Richard Millener, Team Principal, said:

“Adrien and Alex have once again delivered a faultless performance and matched times of the best in the world across the entire event. To see the consistency Adrien is now showcasing on each event is fantastic to see. He had a difficult road position on this event but didn’t let it affect his approach which has resulted in another great result. Grégoire and William had a few setbacks on the event but in general I think they should both be happy with the pace they showed and the valuable experience they have gained. It has been another fantastic event here in Portugal, the number of fans on the stages has been incredible as ever and it was great to see the event extend its position in the championship for years to come as well.”


Adrien Fourmaux, Fourth overall, said:

"I think we can be really happy, because it wasn’t so easy to be third on the road on the opening days! I think we have shown really good pace considering that, keeping close to the leaders and fighting today [Sunday] with the top guys who are fighting for the victory. It’s been a fantastic rally, a really good atmosphere with all the fans watching, it’s really nice. The car has been perfect, no issues at all and we’re pleased with our performance. It gives us confidence for the next rally in Sardinia.”


William Creighton, 12th WRC2, 23rd overall, said:

“It’s always a tricky weekend, we’ll have to come back again to get a full, clean Portugal rally. If you do that here, it gets you a good result. The stages weren’t as rough this year as previously, and that made Friday really enjoyable. After Friday, I think the stages were quite different, a lot more sand, and we struggled to get a nice feeling. 


“But we’ve made good steps today [Sunday], we’re always learning and we’ve got to keep working to improve. Sardinia is very like Portugal, so it's a good practice for that. Thank you to everyone at M-Sport and the MI Rally Academy for keeping me and Liam right.”


Grégoire Munster, retired Sunday, said:

“Rally Portugal didn’t end well for us, we got hooked up in a cut and landed stuck on a ditch by the sump guard, and unfortunately we couldn’t continue. All in all, we learned plenty during this rally. By opening the road on Saturday we had to do a lot of cleaning; it wasn’t easy but it was good learning for us. We also saw our times improve throughout the weekend on the second passes, on a rally that was basically new for us, we felt this was good practice and we had a good feeling in the car. We will carry the experience on to Sardinia in a couple of weeks."



Published 12 May 2024


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