M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Teemu Suninen and Mikko Markkula got off to a strong start at this weekend’s Rallye Monte-Carlo – their EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC the fastest machine through the opening kilometres.
The young Finn has always excelled in changeable conditions, and that was certainly the case as the first stage of 2021 got underway. But having showcased the performance of the Fiesta, Suninen’s speed would go unrewarded.
Caught out by a particularly slippery section of Tarmac, his Fiesta was flung into a bank and off the stage. With too much damage to repair, the young Finn will not restart tomorrow and will have to wait another year before proving his point in Monte.
Elsewhere, Gus Greensmith was unable to muster the same confidence found during last week’s test. Struggling to find a comfortable rhythm behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta WRC, the Brit completed the day in tenth place overall.
Making some set-up changes during this evening’s service and working to better improve his feeling in the cockpit, the Brit will be looking for an improvement in pace as he and co-driver Elliott Edmondson return to action tomorrow.
In the WRC 2 category, Adrien Fourmaux and Renaud Jamoul got off to a near-perfect start behind the wheel of their EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta Rally2 – currently holding second place 8.9 seconds adrift of the lead.
Identifying where to push and where to drive with caution, the Franco-Belgian pairing set the third fastest time through the first stage before going on the attack through the second.
Making the most of their tyre choice, the pairing set a sensational time through the opening split section – more than a second a kilometre quicker than all but one world rally car – and completed the stage with a 5.9-second advantage in the RC2 class.
Team Principal, Richard Millener, said:
“Teemu certainly had the pace through those opening kilometres and it was great to see the excitement amongst the team as his splits came in. But that excitement didn’t last long.
“Needless to say, this wasn’t the start any of us wanted – especially after everything it took just to be here. But as disappointing as it is right now, we have to stay positive and remember that we had the pace – I just feel sorry for the team who put in so much hard work to be here.
“Gus was also hoping for a better start – especially after finding such a good feeling on the test last week. But he couldn’t find that same confidence today and hasn’t looked as relaxed behind the wheel. We’ll speak with him this evening, tell him to relax, and look to get that feeling back – and hopefully that will show in the times tomorrow.
“Adrien however has had a really great start to the rally. He took a clever tyre choice and used it brilliantly – being cautious through that first stage and then really pushing on the second. That first split in particular was amazing – faster than all but one world rally car! There’s still a long way to go, but Adrien and the Fiesta Rally2 have started very well indeed.”
Teemu Suninen (DNF) said:
“Everything was going well and I had a really good feeling in the car. Then coming into a corner I lost the line and touched the bank which sent us off the road. It’s a really big shame because the car was quick and everyone has worked really hard to be here. The pace was good and the car was looking really strong, so this isn’t the start to the season that any of us wanted – and with too much damage, we won’t be back tomorrow.”
Gus Greensmith (10th) said:
“It’s not been a great start for us and all of the confidence we had on the test seems to have gone amiss somewhere. I’m feeling really uptight and uncomfortable in the car, and not relaxed in my driving – so that’s something we’re going to have to try and solve for the morning. There could be some snow in first stage which will make the rest of the loop pretty tricky when it comes to the tyre choice. But they’re all really nice, flowing stages – especially the last one which is probably my favourite of the rally; so let’s see if we can have some fun in there!”
Adrien Fourmaux (2nd WRC 2) said:
“We saw some very tricky conditions today with the grip levels changing all the time. We decided where to push and where to be a bit more cautious and I have to say that I was really pleased with my pace – especially on the last stage which is where we decided to push to make the most of our tyre choice. It was a really clean drive and to be only eight seconds away from the lead is nothing on a rally like this. For tomorrow we should see some snow and ice which means a lot can still happen – so we have to stay focused.”