M-Sport Ford’s fleet of EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRCs will be chasing a strong result when the FIA World Rally Championship ventures to the team’s home event this week.
To best prepare for Wales Rally GB’s notoriously challenging stages, the team completed four days of testing – both at home in Cumbria as well as on-location in the Welsh forests. And with the event’s past five winners all behind the wheel of the Fiesta this week, the team have high hopes of once again challenging for victory.
Last year’s victory was particularly special as the Welsh fixture played host to an incredible weekend for the Cumbrian squad who secured the win as well as the FIA World Rally Championships for Manufacturers, Drivers and Co-drivers.
The Championships can’t be secured on Welsh soil this year, but the victory will be hotly contested and could well prove pivotal as the season draws to a close; and M-Sport Ford will be giving their all in pursuit of a repeat performance.
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“The competition could not be closer and we’ll be hoping for another strong result on home soil. Nothing will ever top last year when we secured all three titles as well as the rally win, but we are aiming to be in the fight for another victory this year.
“Both Sébastien and Elfyn know what it takes to stand on the top step of the podium in Wales. Sébastien has won this event four times, and Elfyn not only grew up on these roads but also made history when he won the event last year – the first Welsh driver to ever do so at this level.
“This will be Teemu’s first time here in a world rally car and there will be a lot to learn, but time after time he proves what a quick learner he is and I wouldn’t be surprised if he sprung another surprise or two this weekend.”
WALES RALLY GB: THE TEAM’S HOME EVENT
Wales Rally GB is one of the classics – an iconic event that every rally driver wants to win. Steeped in motorsport history, the British round has it all and provides one of the biggest challenges of the year.
Mud, rain, fog, even snow and ice – anything can be expected in Wales. Glorious sunshine could even be a possibility this year and the crews could face a dry Wales Rally GB for the first time in a number of years.
Whatever the conditions this weekend, the challenge remains. Focus and endurance are key and the crews will be tested to the maximum. Make no mistake, a win in Wales will have been hard fought and that’s why every driver wants to add this victory to their repertoire.
Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia are no strangers to the taste of champagne, and especially not in Wales where the World Champions have four victories to their name. Currently locked in an intense three-way battle for a sixth world title, the pairing will be looking to challenge for victory once again this weekend.
Previous starts: 10
Best result: 1st (2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016)
Sébastien Ogier said:
“Wales Rally GB is one of the classics and an event that everyone wants to win. The stages are steeped in motorsport history and the early starts and late finishes make it a true test of focus and endurance. Win in Wales, and you know that you have mastered the challenge.
“It’s one of the most challenging rallies on the calendar and there is a real art to judging the grip through the forests. The demanding weather conditions can take a bit of getting used to, but we could see a dry rally this year which would be interesting for sure!
“This time 12 months ago, the Welsh forests played host to an incredible story as we claimed all three championships with Malcolm and his team. The title fight could not be closer this year, but the team can rest assured that we will give our very best in pursuit of the strongest possible result to keep our championship hopes alive!”
Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt know what it takes to tame the tricky Welsh stages and secured their maiden victory on home soil last year. The Brits will have home support on their side this week, and Evans even has a corner named after him on the Myherin stage! Keen to close the latter half of the season with some strong results, the British pairing will be ones to watch.
Previous starts: 6
Best result: 1st (2017)
Elfyn Evans said:
“Competing at home always brings special motivation. We have some of the best stages in the world in Wales, and when you see all the Welsh flags and fans cheering you on you can’t help but feel a real sense of pride.
“The win last year is something that we will never forget. There’s always something special about that first victory, but doing it on home soil with all of our family and friends there was really special and something we definitely want to replicate again this year.
“The aim is to be in the fight for another win, but we know it won’t be easy. This is an event that everyone wants to win and the three guys up front will all be pushing extremely hard. The stages are fast, and mistakes aren’t easily forgiven, but we will give it our best. Experience counts for a lot, and we’ll be looking to put all of our local knowledge to good use.”
Teemu Suninen and Mikko Markkula have come to prove that they cannot be discounted at any event. Wales Rally GB might be one of the most challenging events on the calendar, but the young Finn seems to thrive when the going gets tough. Having secured the WRC 2 victory on his first ever appearance in Wales, Suninen took an instant liking to the Welsh forests and could spring a surprise or two next week.
Previous starts: 3
Best result: 11th (2015)
Teemu Suninen said:
"This will be my first time in Wales with a World Rally Car, but I am looking forward to the challenge and will give it my very best for the team. The car feels good, and hopefully we’ll be able to challenge for a good result.
“We had a one-day test last week where we were able to experience a lot of different conditions. We drove a full day with muddy conditions in the morning before it become dry in the afternoon. Then in the closing hours we also had some heavy rain which meant we were able to experience all kinds of conditions.”