M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Teemu Suninen and Mikko Markkula end the opening day of competition at this weekend’s Arctic Rally Finland in sixth place – their EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC mere seconds shy of championship contenders Elfyn Evans and Thierry Neuville.
Tackling the opening 31.05 kilometre stage in both daylight and darkness, the Finns held their own against a competitive field. And driving well, Suninen ends the day just 2.5 seconds shy of Evans and a further 2.2 adrift of Neuville.
Taking to the wheel of the second Ford Fiesta WRC, Gus Greensmith and Elliott Edmondson took some time to find their rhythm, but upped their game considerably through the second, more challenging pass.
Getting to grips with the conditions under the cover of darkness, they improved by 0.58 seconds per kilometre when compared to the fastest time. And currently holding 10th place overall, they’ll be looking to show further progress on their third ever snow rally tomorrow.
Elsewhere in the WRC 2 category, Adrien Fourmaux also lacks experience on snow but held his own against a strong and experienced field.
Using every kilometre to learn and progress, the Frenchman currently holds fifth place behind the wheel of his EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta Rally2 – he and co-driver Renaud Jamoul just four seconds shy of Rally Sweden record-holder Eyvind Brynildsen.
Team Principal, Richard Millener, said:
“It’s been a good start to the rally with solid performances from all three crews. We all know how strong the competition is, and Teemu has held his own today – driving well, and keeping the championship contenders in sight.
“Gus and Adrien have considerably less experience on this surface, but they’ve both shown really good progress – and both improved their pace considerably through the more challenging night stage this evening.
“Of course there’s still a very long way to go, with a really important day ahead of us tomorrow – but it’s a good start and we’re looking forward to getting back out in these fantastic conditions.”
Teemu Suninen (6th) said:
“I’m really enjoying these conditions. It’s a proper winter rally with really nice stages and I’ve been happy with my driving and how things have been working with me and Mikko inside the car.
“We’re not quite where we want to be when compared to the fastest times, but it’s always been a bit like this on the faster rallies – and we’ll keep working to improve and move forward together.”
Gus Greensmith (10th) said:
“I’m really enjoying it out there and the conditions are just incredible! Having such a good feeling on Shakedown, it was disappointing to have lost so much on the first stage – but we got back into a rhythm for the second pass and it was a lot better. It was good to see that we were there or there abouts, and we just need to continue like that tomorrow.
“Of course there is still a long to go, but I’m really looking forward to it. If SS4 is as good as I think it’s going to be then it’ll be one of the top-five stages I’ve ever driven – and I can’t wait to get back out there!”
Adrien Fourmaux (5th WRC 2) said:
“This was a really great stage, especially in the dark during the second pass. There were a lot of crests which were really challenging, but also really enjoyable to drive. This is my first time experiencing a full-snow rally like this, so I have some work to do to improve my pace. But we’re not too far away from the local guys, and we can use the times of guys like Esapekka [Lappi] and Andreas [Mikkelsen] as a marker to improve throughout the weekend.”