The M-Sport Ford World Rally Team gave a good account of itself on the second day of Rally Italia Sardegna, with the Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiestas competing in both the World Rally Championship and WRC2 setting competitive stage times throughout the day.
After crashing out on the opening stage of the event, Teemu Suninen was handed the role of road sweeper as he returned as the first car into each of the eight timed stages throughout the day. Despite driving through the worst conditions possible, Suninen and co-driver Mikko Markkula were able to run as fast as seventh overall on their return to the top level of competition.
Gus Greensmith and his new co-driver Stuart Loudon also restarted after transmission issues on Friday’s final stage forced them to stop. The young Englishman’s day started brightly as the eighth fastest car through Saturday’s opening two stages, then went one better on the third stage of the day before electrical problems side-lined his car for a second time.
In WRC2, Adrien Fourmaux restarted after damaging the suspension of his Ford Fiesta Rally2 on Friday morning. The French youngster and his Belgian co-driver Renaud Jamoul were immediately on the pace, setting the second fastest time through each of the opening two tests.
On the sixth of the day’s eight stages, Fourmaux stormed to a pair of stage wins on the 13.03 Sedini stage, SS14 and SS16 respectively, which underlined the performance potential of the Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta as he gained in confidence and familiarity with the conditions.
M-Sport Team Principal, Richard Millener, said:
“Two stage wins for Adrien against some hugely experienced rivals in the WRC2 field shows not only how well he is developing on loose surfaces, but also that the Ford Fiesta Rally2 has the ability to run at the front on all surfaces, so that in itself is a big boost for the team.
“Obviously, it would be great if we could turn that performance into results and that is our target for the coming events, but as things stand I think that everyone can take significant confidence that we are going in the right direction.
“Teemu has driven very well indeed as he has begun to get the feeling back of having a full WRC car under him. The stage times that he was able to achieve with the disadvantage of being first on the road were on an upward curve through the day and the Ford Fiesta WRC ran flawlessly in what are some of the roughest stages of the season.
“With Gus’s problem, we could see that he was losing time from the start of the stage and a warning alarm meant he knew he had to back right off the pace and pull to the side while he and Stuart investigated the issue.
“The engineers tried to help with everything they could, but unfortunately we had to retire the car in order to ensure they could have another push tomorrow. I think that the growth in pace and confidence that Gus has shown just in the course of the past two rallies has been tremendous to see and it is great to see him silence his critics with these displays of his ability.”
Gus Greensmith said:
“The morning started well. We continued to make good progress with the setup of the car and I was feeling a lot more comfortable this morning. I feel like from my side of things we’ve had a very good day whilst we’ve been out there it seems we’ve been a lot more competitive with our rivals so I’m happy and we can move forward tomorrow to build on that.
“Obviously it’s very frustrating to have had another issue interrupt that progress but from where we started this event to where we are now in terms of pace I am looking forward to getting out there again tomorrow and getting some more good mileage.”
Teemu Suninen said:
“It’s been quite tricky. Actually some stages were not so slippery, not too much loose gravel, but then some other stages have been a bit harder. Even when we have been through stages for the second time and you hope that a lot of gravel has been swept away, the quick line is very narrow and the penalty for going off that line means that it is hard to commit and risk damaging the car.
“I’ve been playing about with my driving style at times, trying a few things just to get my performance back up to the level that I know I can produce. Getting the Ford Fiesta back on to the podium in the WRC this season is my target and so the mileage that we are able to get can only contribute towards our performance later in the season.“
Adrien Fourmaux said:
“It was important that we should put the disappointment of yesterday behind us, and to be able to run at the front and win two stages in WRC2 was really fantastic for us. I’m really happy.
“Of course it is bittersweet because our pace is strong enough to potentially challenge for the win, were it not for yesterday’s incident, but we have to take pride in what we are achieving and to make sure that we learn from every kilometre to the finish.
“The Ford Fiesta Rally2 has been faultless all day, I was able to feel a really good rhythm in the car and together with the team I think that we have done all that we can to show how strong our performance collectively.”