M-Sport Ford World Rally Team have endured a difficult start to this year’s Rally Sweden, but the team won’t give up the fight with their hopes now firmly placed on the young shoulders of Teemu Suninen.
With Sébastien Ogier battling the loose snow as the first car on the road, and Elfyn Evans picking up an early puncture, their chances of a podium quickly melted away. But the snow posed no problems for Suninen who currently holds sixth position – less than 30 seconds adrift of the lead.
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“There’s no denying that it has been a difficult day for us. Sébastien has paid the highest price with his road position, and Elfyn collected a puncture pretty early on. If the conditions stay like this, it’s not going to get any easier for them with the road position tomorrow.
“But Teemu has had an incredible day. This is only his third time in a world rally car and he’s less than half a minute off the lead. When you consider his experience at this level, and how long it has been since he was last behind the wheel of the Fiesta WRC, it really is very impressive.
“He’s still learning the car, but the way that he’s driven and the mature approach that he has taken has been excellent. We wanted to make sure that he got to the end of the day, so he hasn’t been pushing 100 percent and remains in a good position to gain more experience tomorrow. Hopefully he can continue his good work over the next two days.”
SUNINEN AND MARKKULA
Teemu Suninen and Mikko Markkula are holding their own on one of the fastest – and most competitive – events of the year. Currently holding sixth place, the Finns have shown good progress throughout the day, and find themselves less than half a minute adrift of the leaders.
It’s easy to forget that this is only Suninen’s third event behind the wheel of the EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC. His last outing was at Rally Finland six months ago, and since then he has had just a single day of testing.
SS1: 11th (+3.1)
SS2: 8th (+11.5)
SS3: 9th (+10.8)
SS4: 7th (+4.4)
SS5: 7th (+9.8)
SS6: 4th (+3.0)
SS7: 6th (+6.1)
SS8: 6th (+7.0)
Teemu Suninen (6th) said:
“I’ve been quite happy with our performance today. There are still some things that we need to improve for tomorrow as we’re still not on the pace to fight with the leading cars. It’s been okay, and I need to get the experience, but I would still like to show an improvement and do a bit better tomorrow.”
EVANS AND BARRITT
Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt were determined to make the most of this weekend’s Rally Sweden but suffered another unfortunate setback – picking up a puncture through the first pass of Röjden (SS4) and losing more than a minute to the leading pack.
With the time proving increasingly difficult to claw back, the luckless Brits will now also have to endure an arduous task as the third car on the road tomorrow. Fully focused on delivering a clean run through the remainder of the event, Evans will put this one down to experience and bounce back stronger in Mexico.
SS1: 12th (+3.5)
SS2: 11th (+14.1)
SS3: 11th (+14.3)
SS4: 26th (+1:11.3)
SS5: 8th (+12.5)
SS6: 10th (+35.5)
SS7: 10th (+19.7)
SS8: 9th (+14.7)
Elfyn Evans (11th) said:
“It’s not been the best of days out there. I think it’s fair to say that we were struggling for some pace this morning, but we were pretty unfortunate to pick up the puncture. Quite a few of the top cars hit the same stone, so it was just our bad luck. But to be honest, we were still struggling after that so we’ll make some changes tonight and see what we can do tomorrow.”
OGIER AND INGRASSIA
If there was one thing Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia didn’t want to see this morning, it was fresh snow. But that is exactly what they got and the French pairing have had to battle the worst of the conditions throughout the day.
Acting as a snow plough for the cars behind, Ogier had little chance of making an impact on the time sheets. Adapting an intelligent strategy of damage limitation, the World Champion has done all he can in the circumstances – delivering a clean drive to ensure he is ready to take advantage of any opportunities that might arise as the rally continues.
SS1: 9th (+2.5)
SS2: 10th (+12.5)
SS3: 12th (+18.2)
SS4: 11th (+22.0)
SS5: 12th (+28.0)
SS6: 11th (+35.5)
SS7: 22nd (+50.9)
SS8: 20th (+23.4)
Sébastien Ogier (12th) said:
“It’s been a difficult day, but one that we couldn’t do anything about. Opening the road, we knew that the conditions would be a challenge – especially on the second pass – but it was worse than any of us had expected.
“We tried to push a couple of times, but in these conditions it’s a fight just to stay on the road. And behind, everyone is taking the same line and it’s getting faster and faster with every car.
“We know that the conditions will not be any easier tomorrow, but we’re so far behind that there’s nothing more to lose – we just have to go out there and see what happens.”
1. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) 1:16:13.1
2. Andreas Mikkelsen / Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +4.9
3. Hayden Paddon / Sebastian Marshall (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +12.1
4. Craig Breen / Scott Martin (Citroen C3 WRC) +12.6
5. Mads Østberg / Torstein Eriksen (Citroen C3 WRC) +13.2
6. Teemu Suninen / Mikko Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) +29.6
7. Esapekka Lapp / Janne Ferme (Toyota Yaris WRC) +38.5
8. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:06.2
9. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:29.0
10. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroen DS3 WRC) +1:43.6
11. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2:41.3
12. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2:48.8