M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm are still in the fight for the podium positions at this weekend’s ACI Rally Monza – their EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC holding fourth place at the FIA World Rally Championship season finale.
But the Finnish pairing were left to rue what might have been this evening – a series of minor mistakes costing them what could have been a real shot at victory.
Suffering an intermittent intercom issue throughout the morning loop, the pairing were on the back foot but still on pace; and on course for a fastest time through the first pass of Costa Valle Imagna (SS9) before a spin put paid to their charge.
Regrouping for the second loop, it looked as though another inspired tyre choice was on the cards – Lappi the only driver to opt for three of Michelin’s snow tyre as wintry conditions blighted the mountain stages. But with the second pass of Selvino (SS10) and Costa Valle Imagna (SS12) cancelled, and the snow getting heavier by the minute through Gerosa (SS11), the Finn was unable to make the most of his advantage.
Elsewhere, Gus Greensmith and Elliott Edmondson were back in action and on pace after a cautious start to the morning. Just a handful of seconds shy of the fastest time through both Gerosa (SS8) and Costa Valle Imagna (SS9), the pairing were relishing the afternoon loop – only to become one of a number of crews caught out by the tricky conditions.
Aquaplaning on a particularly slushy and surprising section towards the end of SS10, the Brits were forced into a high-speed spin before ricocheting off the rock face and down a steep embankment. Thankfully both driver and co-driver were unharmed in the incident, but their Ford Fiesta WRC won’t restart tomorrow.
In the WRC 2 category, Adrien Fourmaux and Renaud Jamoul got off to a sensational start – their EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta Rally2 back into the lead of the category after the first test of the day.
The pairing extended their advantage on the next stage, but their efforts were undone in the following speed tests. A brush with the scenery saw them fall back to second through the first pass of Costa Valle Imagna (SS9), before they also fell foul of the conditions on Gerosa (SS11).
Suffering suspension damage after a spin towards the end of the stage, the pairing were able to make a temporary repair but the damage had already been done – a well-deserved victory falling from their grasp.
Team Principal, Richard Millener, said:
“It’s been a tricky day out there and one of missed opportunities for the team. Esapekka undoubtedly had the pace to challenge for the win, but we were really unlucky with the stage cancellations and just made one too many little mistakes.
“We made the right choice with the tyres and had the best package for the loop, but weren’t able to use it to our advantage. Having said that, he’s still only 15 seconds away from the podium and, as we’ve already seen this weekend, there’s still all to play for.
“Elsewhere, Gus and Adrien were both really unlucky to be caught out in two particularly tricky corners. They were both driving well – Gus getting closer and closer to the leading times and Adrien having a sensational drive to get back into the lead of WRC 2.
“Unfortunately Gus’ damage was too great to repair, but we’ll get Adrien back out there and hope to see him setting some more impressive times with the Ford Fiesta Rally2.”
Esapekka Lappi (4th) said:
“Things didn’t go our way this afternoon and we were quite unlucky to be honest. For the first stage of the loop I had the snow tyres on, and then it was cancelled. For the middle stage we had information that the stage was dry, and I took the snow tyres off. And for the last stage of the loop I had the snow tyres on, and it was cancelled again.
“Still I need to be happy with our performance. Our tyre choices have been good, even if the strategy wasn’t perfect, and I’ve really enjoyed driving this car on Tarmac in the forests again.
“We’re not too far away from the podium, but I realise 15 seconds is still quite a big gap at this level. Of course the conditions will be tricky, but everyone already knows what to do and what tyres to choose as I’ve already taught them. But let’s see, and I’ll give it my best.”
Gus Greensmith (DNF) said:
“Once we got up to speed and into our rhythm things were going pretty well. But that changed this afternoon when we went from having good grip to pure aquaplaning on slush at 155kph. And with that transition of conditions at that speed, we were passengers.
“Thankfully both myself and Elliott are okay, but I’m just sorry for the team. It was such an immediate change in conditions that there was nothing I could do – but I’m still sorry for the guys and girls at M-Sport who have all been working so hard this year.”
Adrien Fourmaux (4th WRC 2) said:
“About 100 metres from where Elfyn went off I was just a little too early on throttle and the rear touched the snow and spun us around. We tapped the mountainside in the spin and damaged the suspension which we had to stop and fix in the stage. It was just a temporary fix but honestly it took me a lot longer than it should and I was a bit disappointed with that.
“The mechanics did a great job to fix the car in the short 15-minute service, and now I just intend to go out there and enjoy driving this car on these last few stages. It’s disappointing of course not to be fighting for the win as I think we had the pace to do that this weekend, but that’s just the way it goes sometimes.”