Rally Italia-Sardegna concluded with the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team bringing its cars safely to the finish after three days of action in some of the most brutal conditions on the World Rally Championship calendar.
Gus Greensmith and his new co-driver Stuart Loudon claimed seventh place in their Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC. The young Englishman impressed with the maturity he displayed as he got the car fully dialled-in to the tight, treacherous gravel stages on the opening morning and only a gearbox issue at the end of Leg 1 and an electrical fault from Leg 2 kept him from a top-five finishing position.
Teemu Suninen continued to build his knowledge of the new range of gravel tyres implemented for the series in 2021 on his first WRC outing since the snowbound stages of the Arctic Rally in February. Suninen and co-driver Mikko Markkula finished 8th position after rolling out on the first stage of the rally and using the subsequent two days to gain valuable data for the team.
In WRC2, Adrien Fourmaux underlined his potential by recovering from a retirement on the opening day to finish sixth in the hard-fought junior category. The French youngster and his Belgian co-driver Renaud Jamoul set two fastest stage times on Saturday and then settled into a comfortable rhythm in order to ensure that they reached the end of a gruelling 20-stage event.
M-Sport Team Principal, Richard Millener, said:
“Sardinia is an event that tests cars and drivers to the limit of their endurance and almost every team throughout the service park has suffered one disappointment or another. That does not make it easier for us to look back at how the weekend has gone when you see our pace and what our potential finishing positions may have been.
“Teemu has learned a lot from his experience this weekend. He ran reliably on all but the first day and I think that the mileage and understanding will serve him well when he returns to the cockpit.
“You cannot help but feel for Gus, whose issues on the first two days were not of his own making. We win and lose together as a team of course, but we shall be going through the technical issues thoroughly to ensure that the next time he is in position to achieve the sort of finishing position that his pace deserves.
“Adrien’s ability after just four years of driving any kind of rally car remains exceptional, and while his mistake on Friday was a reflection of that I think we can all feel good about what getting to the end of the event, building that knowledge and winning a couple of stages means for his prospects.”
Gus Greensmith (7th) said:
“I think I was pretty happy with my driving this weekend, one or two stages were particularly good, it’s obviously a shame to then have technical issues that prevent that progress coming through in the overall results.
“I think that we can take heart from the reliability that the other two cars have shown this weekend. Clearly mine have been isolated incidents and in review and planning for the next event we will be able to move forward and keep aiming to get in amongst the top five.”
Teemu Suninen (8th) said:
“We could be happier, obviously, the first day wasn’t very good for us and that was a big shame but we have been able to build a good rhythm through Saturday and Sunday and to learn more about the performance of the Pirelli tyres on gravel.
“It was also a good learning to run first on the road as well, because you can really make up time when you know how to approach the stages with no markers and no line. You always want to take away more than what you learn from an event but on an event like this just reaching the finish can feel like an achievement.“
Adrien Fourmaux (6th, WRC2) said:
“Our goal is to push in all the stages and to keep the pressure on throughout the rally, and the incident on Friday was a combination of things related to readjusting back from the WRC car to the Rally2 and a little bit my experience. The difference in the aerodynamics on the cars is huge and I learned a big lesson as a result.
“We decided to push a bit more with the setup on Saturday, we tried a few different things to get to the point where I felt comfortable to really push and the result was two stage wins, which I think the team deserved for all their efforts this weekend.“