Rally Sweden made a successful return to the World Rally Championship calendar after two years of being absent. The event would prove to be an eventful and challenging rally for the M-Sport team, especially following the highs of Monte Carlo only one month ago.
Fast and tricky conditions in the new Northern event location of Umeå would see the new generation of cars put to the ultimate test on the high speed snow and ice stages for the very first time.
After a weekend filled with ups and downs and tough stage conditions, which he would admit are his most difficult challenge of the season, Gus Greensmith and Swedish co-driver Jonas Andersson would see their confident and solid drive rewarded with a second consecutive fifth overall finish. They now lie fourth in the official drivers’ championship rankings and are the leading M-Sport crew after the first two events of the season.
The weekend would prove a challenge for the M-Sport team, with Craig Breen and Paul Nagle retiring from Friday’s action after getting stuck in a snowbank in the second half of SS2; the only damage being to the crews’ ambitions for the event. Once free from the snow, the car was driven back to service where it was repaired for the Saturday stages.
The second day of competition would see Breen claim his first stage win as an M-Sport driver and simultaneously a first stage win for the Puma Rally1 Hybrid on snow and ice. However, further bad luck would see the car suffer an electrical issue, cutting power after a small bump. The crew would utilise the new Hybrid technology to allow them to drive some of the stage in full Electric mode before pulling over to make bigger repairs. Although they were able to find and fix the fault, they would be over their allotted time limit and forced to retire for the day.
The final day would see Breen drive through the stages preserving his tyres for the all important power stage where he would take a vital point to go towards his championship tally.
Adrien Fourmaux and Alex Coria always planned to approach the event with caution: experience and completing all the stages being key for them after their big accident during the season opening round in Monaco. The plan was being followed with a sensible and steady run across the morning stages and the pace being increased over the afternoon second loop. Drama would hit the young French duo on the final stage of Saturday night with a misfire developing during the open kilometres of the stage based on the outskirts of Umeå. Fourmaux would get the car through the stage and back to service where the M-Sport team would service the car and return it to Parc Ferme, but unfortunately on the first road section of the final day of competition, the issue would return and force the duo to retire from the event, an unfortunate result which didn’t reflect the maturity and sensible drive completed up until that time.
The event also saw the debut event for the M-Sport Ford World Rally WRC2 Team and pairing Jari Huttunen and Mikko Lukka who would finish in a fantastic third place overall after an intense battle throughout the weekend in the WRC feeder series, the Ford Fiesta Rally2 taking four stage wins along the way. Teammate Mattias Adielsson had a difficult weekend on his home event, being forced to retire on the final loop of the weekend after hitting a snowbank.
Gus Greensmith, said:
“I didn’t have a great start to the weekend, I wasn’t very happy with how Friday went because we lost a lot of time, either through my mistakes or problems with the car, which kind of took us out of the fight a little. At that point then, it was just a bit of a reset and taking it step-by-step, and through some other people’s mistakes and misfortune we picked up some good positions. Two fifths in a row puts us fourth in the championship and a de-facto third, if you take Mr Loeb out of the equation, so I’d say that’s pretty good.”
Craig Breen, said:
“A relatively disappointing weekend for us in Sweden, after the great result in Monte we were looking to build on it again and get some more good points for the championship. Unfortunately, the error we made on Friday put out any hopes of getting a good result, but nonetheless we improved as the weekend went on; we had a stage win on Saturday which is great, our first stage win in the team.
“We definitely have a lot of things where we can improve for the upcoming events. We’re looking forward to getting our heads down and getting focused on Croatia, which is coming up very soon.”
Adrien Fourmaux, said:
“It has been a nice weekend for me to get my confidence back after Monte, and I’ve enjoyed my time on the snow. This was my first snow event in a WRC car, and I can be happy with my pace and gathering that experience. At the end of the first day we were in 7th position, so I was really happy with that, and unfortunately on Saturday we had to retire before the last stage due to an engine issue.”
Jari Huttunen, WRC2 Driver, said:
“The first part of the weekend was tricky but today it went well, and I felt I didn’t make as many mistakes. I am happy with the result, getting a podium was our target so it’s good. I think I have some work to do on my driving, and maybe a few things with the car, as we look to get even better results. We still have a lot of work to do, so let’s see.”
Rich Millener, Team Principal, said:
“We knew that repeating the fairy tale of Monte Carlo would be tricky, but I think we are all a little disappointed with how the weekend panned out when we know that we can be on the pace of the other drivers. Some small technical issues coupled with some small mistakes from the drivers meant we didn’t manage to capitalise on our great start last month. However, there was still a stage win and Gus finds himself fourth overall in the Championship, which is fantastic, along with a podium for Jari Huttunen. We have a little break now before Croatia, which will go quickly, but we are now turning to focus on this tough Tarmac test and I cannot wait to get back there and see what the Puma can do. I would also like to say what a fantastic job the Swedish Organisers did this weekend and how welcoming Umeå was, we have a great new location going forward for this special rally.”
Published 27 February 2022