After a gruelling event in Kenya last month, the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team prepares to launch back into action on Rally Estonia this week with a four-strong line-up of Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1s.
M-Sport will take to Rally Estonia’s famously fast stages, starting with a Thursday evening opening super special based on the doorstep of the city of Tartu.
The more traditional action kicks off on Friday as the crews take to the forest to tackle Estonia’s fast gravel, littered with countless jumps and crests.
All four Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1 crews heading to Estonia competed on the event last year, so their experience will be reinforced with confidence thanks to a comprehensive pre-event test held in the surrounding areas earlier this week.
M-Sport Ford front-runner, Craig Breen, returns to Rally Estonia with two podium finishes in as many years on the event. The Irishman boasts significant road knowledge, having competed on Rally Estonia four times prior to the event joining WRC, putting him in good stead ahead of the rally.
Pierre-Louis Loubet returns to M-Sport for his fourth WRC outing in a Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1, bolstered by his outstanding performance in Sardinia where he finished fourth after a weekend-long battle for the podium.
Gus Greensmith has previously competed on the event twice, and with proven pace on fast gravel his intention will be to shake off recent misfortunes. Greensmith started last year’s event well, running fifth overall during the opening stages and so his aim will be to repeat this, giving him a good foundation on which to build throughout the rally.
His first time on the event in top-level WRC machinery, Adrien Fourmaux will take encouragement from his recent stage winning pace and power stage points finish in Kenya to tackle the Estonian gravel. His WRC2 performances in previous years have been strong, claiming a podium result in 2020, and his knowledge of the stages will aid his transition to the higher speeds promised by the Hybrid Rally1 category.
Jari Huttunen makes a return to the Fiesta Rally2 to compete in the WRC2 category following stage winning pace and a podium finish in Sardinia. Huttunen’s appearance in Estonia will be ahead of his recently announced participation in a Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1 on Rally Finland in August.
Rally Estonia marks the fourth and penultimate round of the FIA Junior WRC Championship, which will see six M-Sport Poland-built Fiesta Rally3 cars take to the stages to battle it out on what is proving to be an incredibly close championship, with only 11 points between the podium positions heading into Estonia.
Rich Millener, Team Principal, said:
“Kenya was a tough event, we showed some great speed but unfortunately didn’t get the results we were all hoping for. We now move to an almost opposite rally, a very fast and flowing event with big jumps. All crews have had a very good test in the lead up to the event in order to get their heads back in gear for such high speed stages.
“I have had a lot of positive feedback about the car from the test, so I am hopeful we will perform well over the weekend. Estonia is also a great event with lots of very knowledgeable and passionate fans so it will also be great to see their reception to these exciting new Rally1 cars.”
Craig Breen, said:
“Obviously really looking forward to Estonia, it’s a rally that has served us well in the past, we’ve been on the podium now a good couple of times, and the last two years as part of the world championship we managed to bring home two podiums there as well. Honestly, I can’t wait for it, it’s a run of three rallies now that I’m very familiar and comfortable with. They are the complete opposite of the last couple of rallies of the season so far! I don’t feel alien heading to Estonia, I know what it’s all about.
"We had a really good test last week, the car felt great and I was really comfortable from the beginning, so I’m looking forward to it. The stages look great, obviously with high speeds, big jumps and big crests.”
Gus Greensmith, said:
“Really looking forward to Rally Estonia, last year we already had a good package, and things were going very well before some problems, so we showed that we can certainly set up the car in a way that works.
“From the test, I probably haven’t been this comfortable in the car since Monaco, so really looking forward to this one for sure. Super fast rallies mean very close times and putting everything together is a big job here, so we’ll do our best.”
Pierre-Louis Loubet, said:
“I’m very happy to be going to Estonia, it’s always amazing to drive this type of car on such a fast rally. From our side it will be very important to continue our progression after Portugal and Sardinia, to stay calm and not try to do too much because on a rally like this it is very easy to make a mistake, like always, but you can’t make any mistakes at these high speeds.
“For us it will be important to keep continuing our progress and be very focused on our side and to build maximum confidence in the car. After Estonia we also have Finland, so these are two very important rallies in the season for me.”
Adrien Fourmaux, said:
“Estonia will be completely different to the previous rallies, it will be a really fast rally. It will be my first time with top category car on this event, but it’ll be my fourth participation in total, so I have a good knowledge of most of the stages.
“It will be nice to drive on these fast roads with all the big jumps, it’s always a good experience and a good feeling, so we can look forward to that. We had a good day of testing before the rally, and we’ll use that to do our best to achieve a good result for the team.”
Jari Huttunen, WRC2, said:
“Sardinia was a good event for us, and I am feeling very happy in the car. Estonia is a big challenge with the high-speeds, but we are looking forward to it. We started well last year, and I’ve learnt a lot from the events this season so far, so I think it’ll be good. The focus will be on not making any mistakes and keeping in tune with the car and hopefully we will get a good result for the team.”
Image credit: Janne Sports and Pro
Published 11 July 2022