M-Sport Ford World Rally Team scored its fourth top-six finish in the 2021 FIA World Rally Championship as Teemu Suninen claimed his best result of the season so far with sixth place on Rally Estonia aboard an EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC.
Gus Greensmith also showed strong form on Sunday’s deciding leg with a flurry of promising stage times. He achieved his objective of building his limited experience at World Rally Car level by reaching the finish following his retirement on leg one.
Adrien Fourmaux fought hard for the final WRC2 podium spot but settled for fourth, one place ahead of team-mate and 2020 Junior WRC champion Tom Kristensson in an identical EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta Rally2.
Unable to mount an attack on fifth place following time lost with a puncture and engine problem on leg one, Suninen was in result-preservation mode through Sunday’s 52.10 competitive kilometres alongside co-driver and fellow Finn Mikko Markkula. Playing down a ‘moment’ on SS22 when his car went briefly off-line, Suninen was fourth quickest of all on SS23 to underline his potential. Although a half-spin on SS24 dropped time, his sixth position was never threatened.
Greensmith and co-driver Chris Patterson were able to tackle Sunday’s six stages undeterred, albeit with a 2m30s time penalty after a late check-in to morning service due to a small technical issue.
Having gone fifth fastest on SS2 on Friday, Rally Estonia turned into a case of what might have been for Greensmith after he stopped on SS5 with an engine-related issue. However, he restarted on Saturday in a positive and determined frame of mind and was able to benefit significantly from the experience he gained thereafter.
With Renaud Jamoul co-driving, Fourmaux began leg three with the second fastest time in WRC2 to demote Marco Bulacia for third in the category after the Bolivian suffered an off-road moment. But Bulacia hit back on SS20 and the positions remained unchanged to the finish after Fourmaux’s efforts were undone by an off-road moment of his own on SS23.
For Kristensson, fifth place in WRC2 alongside co-driver David Arhusiander was his best result in the class to date and fitting reward for the Swede’s extensive pre-event preparations.
M-Sport Team Principal, Richard Millener, said:
“It’s fair to say this wasn’t the result or performance we were hoping for after Safari Rally Kenya, but we leave Estonia with a top-six finish, while our four drivers all gained important experience and showed their obvious potential.
“Before the start we would have been happy to have one car in the top six but we all know it could have been better. It was frustrating for Gus and Teemu that engine-related issues meant they weren’t part of the fight. Despite the setbacks, they both gave everything and got lots of important kilometres under their belts, which is what we always ask of them.
“Stepping back into Rally2 from a World Rally Car is never easy but Adrien did a good job. Although he missed out on a podium, he showed the speed we know he’s capable of. We’re also delighted for Tom, who now needs to build on this result going forward.”
Gus Greensmith (32nd) said:
“After the test I was pretty optimistic that we could achieve something good this weekend and after the first stage on Friday we showed that we could. It was a shame what happened with the engine-related issue but since then it’s been a good learning opportunity. I wasn’t happy with my time on SS20 so I made a few changes and I was a lot happier for the second pass. But I just want to say a big thank you to all the guys and girls at M-Sport who have been to Kenya and haven’t been home, haven’t seen their loved ones in all that time. It’s been a massive effort from them and I’m really grateful for what they’ve done.”
Teemu Suninen (6th) said:
“The first stage this morning was quite tricky with the grip level changing a lot. Sometimes it felt like you were on Tarmac because the grip was so high, but sometimes it was super-slippery so I was glad to finish. I had a moment on SS22 when the car just jumped from the ruts to the inside but nothing serious happened. Then on the last stage, I was struggling on the ruts and somehow I got to the inside of the ruts on a right-hand corner and had to go back. But we were able to finish after a difficult weekend.”
Adrien Fourmaux (4th WRC2) said:
“It was a really nice experience for us all weekend and I must say thanks to M-Sport. The car has been really good and I’ve been enjoying it all the time. I wanted to bring a better result for the team, at least a podium. We missed it but it was a really nice fight with the two other guys but we can be happy and it was a really good experience.”
Tom Kristensson (5th WRC2) said:
“It was a challenge to take care of the car with the changes of surface and conditions we encountered. For sure we wanted to push more but it was important to bring the car home safe and sound, we’ve adapted well and we’ve taken the mileage. Now we can analyse the work we’ve done and look to the work we will have to do in the future.”
The WRC returns to Tarmac next for Renties Ypres Rally Belgium, a new addition to the world championship schedule, from 12-15 August.