Rising talents Adrien Fourmaux and Gus Greensmith will start the final day of Rally de Portugal firmly in the points-paying positions for the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team.
In their EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRCs, Fourmaux is a fine fifth after Saturday’s action with team-mate Greensmith one place behind in sixth on the first gravel round of the 2021 FIA World Rally Championship season.
Despite being hindered by running at the front of the field and forging a clean line for the drivers behind, the young pairing remained fully focused on increasing their experience and covering the 165.16 competitive kilometres that made up leg two.
Starting the day in seventh position following his top-three stage-time heroics of Friday, Greensmith, 24, began the morning loop in fine style, fighting off the effects of his third-place road position to go fifth quickest.
Unfazed by a moment on the first of two passes through the Amarante stage, the event’s longest at 37.92 kilometres, Greensmith returned to the midday service halt in Matosinhos closing in on sixth overall alongside co-driver Chris Patterson.
Sixth quickest on the opening stage of the afternoon loop, Greensmith’s impressive progress was hampered by an engine issue on SS13 and SS14. But he didn’t give up and gained two places as the demanding second leg headed to its climax on a short evening street stage beside the sea in Porto.
With an advantage of 7.7s over Fourmaux, Greensmith dropped a position to his team-mate on the 3.30-kilometre run after being forced to switch between stage and road mode due to the technical issue.
Having resolved a throttle problem after the morning’s first stage by replacing a faulty sensor on the road section, Fourmaux, who is being co-driven by Renaud Jamoul, made gaining knowledge of his EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC the priority thereafter.
With his Rally de Portugal debut marking his first outing on gravel in a World Rally Car, the 26-year-old remained resolute after being promoted to the role of road opener when rival driver Thierry Neuville was forced to retire.
Teemu Suninen used leg two of Rally de Portugal to cement his podium placing in the WRC2 category, while also increasing his understanding of the EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta Rally2 on gravel. Hedding into Sunday’s five-stage route, Suninen and co-driver Mikko Markkula are more than 1m20s ahead of their closest rivals in second position after being slowed by a damaged tyre on SS14 and still in the fight for the victory.
Restarting on leg two after he went off the road on day one and retired, Tom Kristensson used Saturday’s route to increase his experience behind the wheel of the EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta Rally2, part of his prize for winning the FIA Junior WRC Championship in 2020. With David Arhusiander co-driving, Kristensson is ninth in WRC2 after an encouraging display.
M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Another tough day of rallying but another very strong performance from both Gus and Adrien and the team, which we’re obviously really pleased about. Despite their young age and limited experience, Gus and Adrien performed really well in challenging circumstances, caused by some technical issues and having to open road for much of the day.
“While there’s still a long way to go on Sunday, it’s great to see them in the top six and on course for some good points and lots more kilometres.
“It’s a shame for Teemu that he lost time in the afternoon with a puncture, but his speed and consistency have been really impressive in the EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta Rally2 and he’s heading for a podium. I was also pleased that Tom was able to restart and get some kilometres under his belt.”
Adrien Fourmaux (5th) said:
“The stages were really nice to drive today and driving my EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC on gravel was just amazing, so I was enjoying myself a lot.
“It was not easy to be opening the road and I think it was worse in the second loop because of the line of the two-wheel-drive cars. It was hard to find the right driving style and the right set-up because of this. We have lost a lot of time but opening the road is part of the game and it’s good for the experience and for the future.
“Overall, we can be happy that we had a good pace for the last long stage. Honestly, it was a really tough day but really fun and I can’t wait to get more experience tomorrow.”
Gus Greensmith (6th) said:
“We had a pretty stellar run through the first stage this morning. I was hesitating in places on the next stage and then I had quite a big moment on the final stage of the morning that cost me five seconds. The moment distracted me a bit, but I got back on the rhythm pretty quickly.
“We had hopes of making more progress in the afternoon so we’re obviously disappointed to have had some issues with the car. But we managed them the best we could and minimised the time loss, which is the most important thing and something we should be pleased about. I will try to get the time back tomorrow and the positive thing is the top five is still achievable.”
Teemu Suninen (2nd WRC 2) said:
“It’s been a great day when you consider we are second in WRC2 and have been able to show the performance of the EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta Rally2 on gravel. It was a big shame we got the puncture in the afternoon and I have to say it was tricky to manage the conditions at the end of the loop. Of course, we were hoping for a bit more but I can be happy with what we’ve been doing here. We kept the pressure on in the afternoon and the gap was not too big before we got the puncture.”
Tom Kristensson (9th WRC 2) said:
“We needed to start from fresh this morning and just try to get some experience and now we’ve got it. The first run through the long stage was very good for us and we were able to increase our speed during the stage. It was good experience with the tyres and a good experience with the car and we’re very happy to get to the finish of the day. We are enjoying and focusing totally on ourselves in the car. We need to continue like this.”