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Adrien Fourmaux claimed a stunning second place in WRC2 and an incredible ninth overall for the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team on Rally Finland, while Pierre-Louis Loubet continued the team’s unbroken run of WRC Manufacturer points finishes. Often referred to as the ‘Gravel Grand Prix’, Fourmaux and Co-Driver Alex Coria rose to the challenge, taking on mightily fast local talents on very familiar territory. Fourmaux’s rally started with solid and consistent pace, establishing a strong foundation to build on as he concluded Friday’s stages fourth in WRC2 with a stage win on the final speed test of the day. Saturday morning saw Fourmaux and his Fiesta Rally2 ascend to third after the opening stage, with a second-fastest stage time on the next. Fourmaux’s relentless desire to take on the rapid Scandinavians in their own backyard was further rewarded on SS15, moving up another position to second. Fourmaux secured the position by pressing hard, setting three consecutive top-three times. He would top off a successful day with a stage win. At the start of Sunday, four stages stood between Fourmaux and his first WRC2 podium since the 2021 edition of Rallye Monte-Carlo. The Frenchman held a healthy 48.6-second advantage over third. Fourmaux guided his Fiesta Rally2 through three well-measured drives to arrive at the Power Stage for one final push for bonus points to consolidate an impressive performance. With strong focus on the WRC2 Power Stage, Fourmaux recorded the third fastest time to claim an additional championship point to fortify a successful weekend. In all, Fourmaux’s podium finish represents months of dedicated hard work by M-Sport’s Fiesta Rally2 development team as the car has seen huge steps in performance throughout the year. Loubet’s Rally Finland became a story of survival fairly quickly, after the French youngster crashed on the third stage of the rally, drifting wide and hitting a tree. With the team’s unbroken record run of manufacturer points scored at risk, M-Sport came together and pulled out all the stops to repair Loubet’s Puma Hybrid Rally1 to see him restart the rally on Saturday. From there on, Loubet’s priority was to get to the end of the rally and secure those precious manufacturers’ points. Ott Tänak started Rally Finland with promising pace, after going fastest on the first pass of shakedown, backing his form up with a commanding stage win on the Harju Super Special Stage. The three-time Rally Finland winner’s challenge would be cut short after suffering a heavy impact on stage three, resulting in engine damage that would ultimately force retirement from the rally. Also in WRC2, Grégoire Munster completed his Rally Finland debut in the Ford Fiesta Rally2. The young Luxembourg driver delivered a faultless performance over the weekend, enhancing his experience levels on fast gravel. Munster collected a handful of top-ten stage times in the feeder category, and finished in a very respectable tenth overall in WRC2. Richard Millener, Team Principal, said: “It's been a pretty difficult weekend for the team, I want to thank everybody for working so hard to get us here for the start of the rally with most of the team staying away from since the start of Rally Estonia. So to end up with the results we had is a real shame for them - after all the hard work they put in. We know what we are able to achieve and we saw flashes of pace again on shakedown and stage one. Pierre got to the end of the rally after a difficult start which was great to see. “It's been a fantastic result for Adrien in Rally2, again big credit to all the people at work for making the car as competitive as it is here on these roads for a really strong result. Great to see Gregoire get another finish without a mark on the car and gaining more experience. Now we have got three or four weeks off where everybody can go home and spend some time with their families, reset and come back strong for the last four events of the year.” Adrien Fourmaux, 2nd in WRC2, 7th Overall, said: “I have to say that the team has been working really well and we had a great result here in Finland. We had no issues at all on the car, it was a perfect weekend for us, we had all the info we needed in the stages. We are really happy; it wasn’t in the plan to be here and finishing this rally on the podium in second position is a great consolation for everybody and for us. I was really happy to be fighting with the Finnish drivers on these roads, it was quite special.” Grégoire Munster, 9th in WRC2, 15th Overall, said: “It was a good rally for us, we learned quite a lot. The pace was improving steadily stage by stage, even though on some stages we had difficult weather conditions. We had to try different things with the set up and so that was also a very nice learning experience.” Pierre-Louis Loubet, 46th Overall, said: “I am quite disappointed about the weekend, we tried to be on the pace, but unfortunately I hit a tree and had to restart. We did a good day on Saturday, but today it was difficult to maintain a high pace as we were nursing a small issue with the engine that meant we lost some power. We tried our best during the power stage to score more points. “Greece is next, we had some strong pace there last year and I hope everything goes well there. I think even though not everything is going in the right direction with results, the progress is there and we just need to keep pushing.” Ott Tänak, Retired Friday, said: “Of course we are disappointed, after Estonia this isn’t how we wanted this week to go. It’s a shame we can’t continue but the car is too damaged for us to carry on. “Now it’s time to have a break after a busy few months, then we will focus fully on Greece in September.”

Published 06 August 2023


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