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M-Sport Ford World Rally Team reaches the end of the famous Rallye Monte-Carlo having achieved its goal of delivering both crews to the finish line, collecting championship points and setting a strong tone for a busy upcoming season.

Both Adrien Fourmaux and Alex Coria, who finished fifth overall, and Grégoire Munster and Louis Louka, who finished 20th overall, delivered very impressive and measured performances on this notoriously tough event. Despite the unseasonably warm weather, meaning a lack of the typical snow and ice conditions on the stages, the crews still negotiated tricky damp and frosty roads and tactical tyres choices across the four days of action.

With impressive displays of speed and intelligence throughout the whole weekend, Adrien Fourmaux would deliver a perfect season-opening performance with a balance of pace and precision to see him claim an excellent fifth overall and taking home a strong 11 total championship points.

Establishing his position as early on as Thursday’s night stages, Fourmaux would see a short stint in fourth overall on Friday morning before settling into a strong fifth place for the remainder of the day. Showcasing his readjustment to Rally1 machinery, Fourmaux would continuously put down top-five times, including an impressive third fastest time on SS5 to consolidate a strong morning loop.

Turning his strategy to now protect his position, with a comfortable margin to Mikkelson behind him by over a minute, Fourmaux wisely maintained a competitive yet measured pace to complete Friday afternoon’s tests with no dramas. He would take this approach on Saturday as well, managing speed and accuracy to hold tight onto his position to the day’s end and thus collecting eight provisional points under the new scoring system.

With his sights now dead-set on a fifth overall position, Fourmaux embarked upon Sunday’s long journey to take him back to Monaco’s Casino Square, driving sensibly through the morning’s opening icy stage before the long road section to the famous Col de Turini Power Stage.

Maintaining a cool head throughout the Power Stage, Fourmaux would miss out on additional points but instead collected a further three points for his Sunday finishing position.

Grégoire Munster would deliver an equally promising result on his first Rallye Monte-Carlo in top-level WRC machinery. Adjusting quickly to both the Puma Rally1 and the technical Monte roads, Munster had a strong weekend filled with learning and encouraging pace.

Sensibly starting slow and steady, Munster tackled Thursday’s late night stages with skill and stayed competitive with Katsuta, Mikkelson and teammate Fourmaux on the timing boards. Friday morning’s opening stage saw an icy patch catch out a number of crews, including Munster, who went wide and ended up stuck briefly before a group of spectators got him back on the road. Quickly redeemed by strong times on the following tests, Munster found himself seventh overall heading into midday service, albeit over a minute’s gap to teammate Fourmaux in fifth.

The afternoon would see more good pace from Munster, continuously pushing to compete with the timings of his teammate and see him hold seventh position. This healthy competition would satisfy Munster on Saturday morning, when his more suitable tyre choice of a predominantly soft package would let him claim a career-first third-fastest time on the day’s opening stage, the Luxembourger claiming another position to take himself into sixth behind Fourmaux. He would hold this position until midday service.

Unfortunately, on the opening stage of the afternoon loop, a small mistake on SS12 would cause big consequences for Munster, finding himself beached on a tight left-hand bend a third of the way into the stage. Lack of assistance nearby meant this would call an untimely end to an otherwise successful day for Munster, taking him out of contention for Saturday’s points.

Back out opening the road on Sunday, Munster would deliver a sensible drive to focus on getting his Puma Rally1 to the final podium in Monaco. Setting times only a few seconds behind his teammate on the opening two stages, Munster would end the event on strong form with a measured drive through the Power Stage, to claim back positions and end his rally in 20th overall and a single point for his Sunday scoring.

Richard Millener, Team Principal, said:

“We came here with a clear goal of getting both cars to the finish, to gain experience with the drivers and to show that we can be competitive this year. I firmly believe we achieved all of this. Both crews each scored a third fastest time and drove sensibly over what was still a tricky Monte-Carlo Rally. I am really pleased for both of them, and also the team who, as-ever, worked very hard to get us here and gave us two perfectly reliable cars.

“Of course it was a shame for Grégoire and Louis on Saturday afternoon but apart from that we can all be very positive heading into Sweden in a couple of weeks time.”

Adrien Fourmaux said:

“I’m happy to be finished in fifth overall, for sure I would like to do better, but I think it’s a good start to the season. I’m quite happy how we managed it, we were just behind the top four guys, and even on Sunday we showed that we could be up there with them. It’s very positive, we are taking some good points for the championship and we hope the results will continue to come.”

Grégoire Munster said:

“The goal was just to get experience on this tricky rally in Monte-Carlo, and I think we managed to do that. Unfortunately we had to retire on Saturday and restart today, but I think we grabbed a lot of experience and showed great pace. Thanks to the RNCs and weather crews, we managed to get a third fastest time, which is our best result so far on a WRC stage. We also managed to be within 0.5s/km of Thierry [Neuville] on Saturday morning, while he was the fastest car on the loop, which was a real positive.

“We also managed to grab our first point in WRC, we could have achieved more without the mistake on Saturday, but still great learning and thanks to the team the car was working perfectly throughout the weekend."

Published 28 January 2024


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