M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRCs will be let loose on pure asphalt next week as the FIA World Rally Championship ventures to Rally Croatia for a brand-new challenge.
Based in the vibrant city of Zagreb, the stages run through some of Croatia’s most beautiful countryside and will be new to all crews. Fast and narrow, the first pure-asphalt tests of the year will challenge the world’s best drivers with tricky crests and jumps; and the pre-event reconnaissance will be more important than ever – demanding full focus from the drivers as they note every detail in pursuit of the cleanest and fastest stage times.
In a weekend of debuts for the Cumbrian squad, Gus Greensmith and Adrien Fourmaux will take to the wheel of the Fiestas WRCs – Greensmith sitting alongside new co-driver Chris Patterson, and Fourmaux making his WRC debut behind the wheel of the top-specification Fiesta. Both crews will also benefit from the latest engine upgrade – boosting the confidence of the squad’s young drivers with increased power and performance.
In the WRC 2 category, Teemu Suninen will be joined by last year’s FIA Junior WRC Champion Tom Kristensson in a pair of EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta Rally2s. The Fiesta Rally3 will also be making its FIA World Rally Championship debut in the hands of Hungarian driver Zoltán Lászlónd, and the FIA Junior WRC Championship gets underway with eight identical EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta Rally4s prepared by M-Sport Poland.
Highlighting the continued popularity of the Blue Oval throughout all levels of competition, 41 percent of the entry will compete behind the wheel of Ford machinery representing almost all levels of M-Sport Ford’s Ladder of Opportunity – strengthening the team’s commitment to supporting the sport from grass-root to top-level rallying.
Team Principal, Richard Millener, said:
“It feels like a long time since we’ve been rallying, and I think everyone is looking forward to travelling to Rally Croatia. There’s something special about experiencing a new event for the first time, and next week will be no exception. I’m excited to see what the stages will be like, as I’m sure the drivers are too, and we’re all keen to get the season back underway with a positive result.
“Next week’s event will be a real rally of debuts for us – Gus benefitting from the experience of Chris Patterson in the co-driver’s seat and Adrien taking to the wheel of the Fiesta WRC for the first time at this level. We’ll also have the engine upgrade in both cars – producing more power at the top end and boosting the confidence of both drivers on a surface which they and we tend to perform well.
“We’re carrying out our pre-event test on location this weekend, and plan for Gus and Adrien to each complete a day and a half behind the wheel – getting familiar with the performance of Pirelli’s P Zero tyres and dialling the cars into the Croatian asphalt.
“It’s also good to have Teemu and Tom with us in WRC 2. We’re trying to support Teemu as much as we can with as many outings as possible, and we’re pleased to see Tom join the team after winning the FIA Junior WRC Championship last year. His progress is a great example of our Ladder of Opportunity, and it’s fantastic to see so many aspects of that initiative in action next week – something that’s only strengthened by the fact 41 percent of the entry will be behind the wheel of a Ford.”
GUS GREENSMITH / CHRIS PATTERSON
Joining forces with a new co-driver at next week’s Rally Croatia, Gus Greensmith will benefit from the knowledge and expertise of experienced navigator Chris Patterson. Learning from the Irishman, Greensmith aims to soak up those small details that only come with experience – invigorating his start to the season with a positive performance on a surface he and the Fiesta have historically enjoyed.
Gus Greensmith said:
“I’m really looking forward to getting back behind the wheel and with Chris sitting alongside it feels like a completely fresh start to the season. I want to thank Elliott for the time we spent together. He’s a great co-driver and a good friend, but at this point in my career I can only benefit from the experience someone like Chris will bring to the car. It’s all about ironing out those small mistakes, and with his help I believe I can do that.
“We’ve already spent quite a few days together in the workshop and going through the pacenotes, but this weekend’s test will be our first time sitting together in the rally car. It will take some time to get used to one another, but he’s been great to work with so far and I can already see that experience coming to the fore with ideas and suggestions about what we can do to improve.
“Hopefully that will all come together for a strong result next week. I want to deliver a consistent performance with no mistakes, and I see no reason why we won’t be able to do that. We know that the Fiesta is a quick car on Tarmac which automatically gives you that extra bit of confidence, and the new engine will make a positive difference as well.”
ADRIEN FOURMAUX / RENAUD JAMOUL
Making his WRC debut behind the wheel of the top-specification Fiesta, Adrien Fourmaux will be looking to make an impression as he and co-driver Renaud Jamoul embark on the next stage of their career at Rally Croatia. The Franco-Belgian pairing have driven the Fiesta WRC on asphalt before – securing victory on their debut at last year’s Rallylegend – but this will be their first time piloting a world rally car at the highest level of the sport.
Adrien Fourmaux said:
“I’m really excited to take this next step in my career and want to thank M-Sport and Red Bull for the opportunity; as well as the FFSA and all my partners, family and supporters – because without all of them I wouldn’t be here today!
“This won’t be my first time behind the wheel of the Fiesta WRC as we drove it at Rallylegend last year and also at the pre-event test for Arctic Rally – but this will be my first time driving against the world’s best drivers in the FIA World Rally Championship.
“There will be a lot to learn, but I’m really looking forward to it and will focus on gaining as much knowledge and experience as I can.
“We have a pre-event test this weekend to really get to grips with the car and dial into the Croatian roads which will be completely new to everyone. From what I’ve seen, the stages look really interesting – fast and narrow and quite technical in places. It’s going to be a big challenge, but one that I’m excited to experience.
“I’m looking forward to rallying on pure asphalt again and even more so behind the wheel of this car! I can’t wait to get started and am looking forward to seeing where we are and how we can improve throughout the weekend.”
TEEMU SUNINEN / MIKKO MARKKULA
Teemu Suninen will pilot an EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta Rally2 at next week’s Rally Croatia – he and co-driver Mikko Markkula going up against a competitive field in the WRC 2 category. With more and more top-flight drivers now contesting the FIA World Rally Championship’s premier support series, the young Finn will have some serious competition as he returns to a car he has not driven in the World Series since 2018, but his proven speed on asphalt should hold him in good stead.
Teemu Suninen said:
“It’s great to be competing at next week’s Rally Croatia. This event wasn’t on my calendar at the start of the year, and I want to thank Malcolm and Rich for finding a way for me to compete. The more time I get behind the wheel of any rally car the better, and I’m looking forward to experiencing this new event and discovering the Croatian stages.
“Of course the WRC 2 category is really competitive at the moment and I’ve not driven the Fiesta Rally2 in a really long time – but it’s all good experience and I’m looking forward to the challenge and what I hope will be a really good battle at the head of the field. It will also be good to rediscover a car without centre differential – so that I can be ready for any 2022 testing the team might need in the coming months.”
TOM KRISTENSSON / DAVID ARHUSIANDER
The FIA Junior WRC Championship’s most recent champion will start the next stage of his career at Rally Croatia – Tom Kristensson taking to the wheel of his prize EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta Rally2 in the WRC 2 Championship. Going up against some of the biggest names in rallying the Swede will have much to learn, but is well-placed to do just that – learning from M-Sport’s experienced team of engineers whilst assessing his progress against the likes of rally-winners Andreas Mikkelsen and Mads Østberg.
Tom Kristensson said:
“I’m really excited to start this next stage of my career. This is such a fantastic opportunity for me and having worked so hard to be here I plan to make the most of every second. It was always my plan to drive my prize Ford Fiesta Rally2 in the FIA World Rally Championship, and to do that as part of M-Sport’s WRC 2 team is really special. There will be a lot to learn, but I’m in the best place to do that and really looking forward to our first event together.
“I want to be as ready as I can be so we’ve been pretty busy over the past couple of weeks with a fairly intense period of practice and preparation. I drove M-Sport Poland’s Ford Fiesta Rally3 at Rallye Sanremo last weekend, and then stayed in Italy for some pacenote practice with my gravel crew. We had also planned to test in Italy but when we got to the test road it was completely full of snow and had to make a quick change! We’re now going to try and test in Slovenia, before heading to Croatia for an official test with the M-Sport team.
“It’s been a busy few weeks, but hopefully all worth it and we’ll be able to make the most of the experience and show good progress throughout the weekend.”