M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRCs have had a strong start to this weekend’s Croatia Rally – young drivers Adrien Fourmaux and Gus Greensmith currently holding sixth and seventh places respectively.
Making his FIA World Rally Championship debut with the top-specification Fiesta, Fourmaux delivered an impressive performance – regularly outperforming his more experienced rivals and keeping in touch with the leaders through a number of speed tests.
Giving himself the goal of securing a handful of top-five stage times this weekend, the Frenchman already has two under his belt – and will be keen for more as he and co-driver Renaud Jamoul continue to learn and improve.
Gus Greensmith also delivered a strong drive through today’s opening stages. Taking confidence from the experience of new co-driver Chris Patterson, the young Brit delivered a more assured performance and looked his most comfortable behind the wheel.
Currently holding seventh place overall, this has undoubtedly been Greensmith’s best performance of the year so far. Considerably reducing the gap to the leading pack, the youngster has been enjoying his driving and will be keen for further progress as he and Patterson build their relationship.
Elsewhere in the WRC 2 category, Teemu Suninen was locked in an intense fight for the lead before running wide and down the side of a steep bank through the first pass of Pećurkovo Brdo – Mrežnički Novaki (SS4).
Yet despite losing more than 40 seconds freeing their EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta Rally2, he and co-driver Mikko Markkula maintain podium position in third place overall.
There was also a strong performance from reigning FIA Junior WRC Champion Tom Kristensson through the opening stages – the young Swede locked in a fierce fight for fourth place on what is his competitive debut with the four-wheel-drive Fiesta.
Unfortunately however, he and co-driver David Arhusiander were forced to forgo the fight when hitting a rock and damaging the cooling package of their Fiesta through the second pass of Jaškovo – Mali Modruš Potok (SS7).
Team Principal, Richard Millener, said:
“We’ve had a strong start to this event, and it’s so good to see both Gus and Adrien really enjoying their driving. They’ve both delivered a really strong performance today, and I think they can be pleased with a job well done.
“This is exactly the performance we wanted to see from Adrien, and his excitement at the stage ends has lifted the entire team. His pace is pretty much there already, and he’s only going to get better the more time he has behind the wheel.
“We’ve also seen a massive improvement from Gus, and it’s so nice to see him this relaxed. The experience that Chris has brought to the car has already proved invaluable, and they’re only going to get better as they build that relationship.
“In the WRC 2 category, we also saw strong performances from Teemu and Tom – Teemu challenging for the lead, and Tom delivering a similarly impressive and infectious performance to Adrien on his debut with the four-wheel-drive Fiesta.
“Unfortunately they both made a small mistake, but that’s so easy done on a rally like this. Teemu is still in podium position, and Tom can still be really proud of his pace which has been extremely promising for the future.”
Adrien Fourmaux (6th) said:
“I have been taking so much enjoyment from driving this car on these stages, and I am so glad to say that I already have two top-five stage times! That was one of my goals for the weekend, and it’s great to see that we could achieve that already on the first day.
“The stages are so difficult – there is only a very fine line to follow and if you’re a bit early or a bit wide then you’re straight in the dirt. I’ve made a few small mistakes like this, but I’ve also seen quite a few lines like this as well – so maybe I’m not the only one!
“We made a big improvement from one pass to the other today, and I hope that we can do the same again tomorrow. Honestly, it’s been amazing driving this car on these crazy stages. I need to stay focused, but I can’t wait to do it all again tomorrow!”
Gus Greensmith (7th) said:
“It’s been a good day for us, and I’m really happy to see the turnaround from where I was in Monte to where I am now. There’s still some time to be found in the new pacenote system and getting used to having less information in there – but I can see a clear way forward now, and that’s really promising.
“I’m still losing some time here and there, but we’re looking at seconds rather than 10s of seconds now – so that’s a massive improvement. I’ve really enjoyed my day out there, and we’ll do some more work tonight to hopefully see another improvement tomorrow.”
Teemu Suninen (3rd WRC 2) said:
“It’s a big shame that I made the mistake this morning otherwise we would have been challenging for the win – but it has still been quite an okay day for us. The pace is there and we’ve proved that the Fiesta can challenge for the top results. There’s still a long way to go with two interesting and tricky days rallying, so anything can happen!”
Tom Kristensson (6th WRC 2) said:
“I had a really good feeling going into that third stage this afternoon, but I was a bit out of the line going into the first left-hander. It was a very fast corner that went immediately right, and I was too early. We touched a small stone which pulled the car into a spin, and then hit a bigger rock on the outside which damaged the cooling package.
“Hopefully the damage isn’t too much and we’ll be able to start tomorrow because I was really pleased with our performance today. We had a great day with brilliant progress and a really good feeling in the car. So hopefully we can start again with big smiles tomorrow.”