JYVASKYLA, Finland - M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRCs will jump back into action at next weekend’s Neste Rally Finland – the FIA World Rally Championship returning to its spiritual home after a six-week break in the calendar.
Finnish star Teemu Suninen will be joined by Gus Greensmith and Hayden Paddon – Elfyn Evans having to delay his return to the top-specification Fiesta as he recovers from a back injury sustained at Rally Estonia earlier this month.
Suninen contested a two-day test in the lead-up to the event, with Greensmith also making the most of a day’s preparation behind the wheel of the Fiesta. Paddon will experience the power and performance of the top-specification Fiesta for the first time on Monday; and all three crews are geared up to make a big impression on what is one of rallying’s most anticipated weekends.
Team Principal, Richard Millener, said:
“The team are really motivated heading into the second half of the season. We’ve already proven our speed, and now it’s time to bring everything together in pursuit of more podiums as well as that sought-after victory over the next six events.
“We’ve had a productive break with tests in Finland as well as Rally Estonia, and we feel well prepared. The competition will be tough, but we have made some positive steps forward – with new dampers developed specifically for Finland – and we’ve got a good chance of a strong result.
“Obviously it’s a massive shame not to have Elfyn and Scott [Martin, co-driver] with us. Elfyn’s always gone well at this event, but we’ve still got three exciting crews. We wanted to be as competitive as we could be, and that’s why we’ve stuck with a three-car team this weekend.
“It was discussed that Gus would do a second event in the World Rally Car, so we fast-tracked that idea and it will be interesting to see how his pace improves. We’re also really fortunate to have Hayden with us. He’s got loads of experience, great speed and is very determined to do well. He’s spent some time with the engineers and technicians over the past few days, and shown that he’s ready to make the most of the opportunity.
“Speaking of being determined to do well, Teemu is really excited about his home event. I think he found the summer break particularly long, and can’t wait to get back behind the wheel. Like a lot of people, I’m excited to see what he can do – especially coming off the back of a career-best result in Sardinia and with Jarmo [Lehtinen, co-driver] alongside him!”
THE SPIRITUAL HOME
Rally Finland is often considered the sport’s spiritual home, and every driver wants to win there – where bravery and commitment are more important than anywhere else. The Finns even have a name for the special mind-set needed to conquer their legendary rally – ‘Sisu,’ a local term which literally translates to having guts.
And guts are needed, because Rally Finland is fast – seriously fast. Nine of the ten fastest rallies in WRC history were recorded there and the blisteringly quick roads are interspersed with huge jumps that demand expert focus and precision.
The competition is close at the best of times, but in Finland it’s even closer. The smallest of mistakes can be costly, and pin-point accuracy is required from every single member of the team. The drivers must faultlessly land every jump. The co-drivers must flawlessly time every pacenote. And the team must ensure the Fiestas are perfectly set-up for the Finnish forests.
Teemu Suninen and Jarmo Lehtinen will be looking to challenge for the top results when they contest their home event at next weekend’s Rally Finland. As a former Flying Finn Future Star, Suninen has always impressed on home soil and will have a previous winner alongside him this year – Lehtinen winning the event alongside Mikko Hirvonen in 2009.
Contesting the Finnish fixture for the third time with the top-specification Fiesta, Suninen has more experience here than anywhere else and completed a comprehensive two-day test in preparation. The competition will be tough, but the young Finn is ready for the challenge and eager to impress following a career-best second place in Sardinia.
Previous starts: 5
Best result: 4th (2017)
Teemu Suninen said:
"The summer break was long – really long – and I can’t wait to get back in the rally car. Rally Finland is one of my favourites and there is something special about rallying at home – so of course I want to do well there.
“I would say that I’m in a better pace this year than I was last year, and my experience is on a level now where I can compete for the good results. We had a good two-day test last week and the car feels a lot more competitive than it was 12 months ago.
“But of course our rivals will also have made some steps forward and we need to stay realistic. Last year I finished sixth, so my aim is to at least do one better than that.”
Having made their World Rally Car debut at Rally de Portugal earlier this year, Gus Greensmith and Elliott Edmondson are back behind the wheel of the Ford Fiesta WRC sooner than expected – standing in for Elfyn Evans and Scott Martin as the Welshman recovers from a back injury.
Just 33 hours after receiving the call, Greensmith was back behind the wheel of the top-specification Fiesta – powering through the Finnish forests and preparing for his second appearance at the sport’s highest level. And despite the challenges ahead, he and Edmondson are ready to make the most of the opportunity.
Previous starts: 4
Best result: 13th (2018)
Gus Greensmith said:
“I want to wish Elfyn a full and speedy recovery. These aren’t the circumstances in which we wanted to be back behind the wheel of the World Rally Car, but it’s the cards we’ve been dealt and I’m really proud that M-Sport and Ford saw us as the best crew for the job.
“Rally Finland gives you so much satisfaction behind the wheel, and I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like with the Fiesta WRC – this rally and this car blow my mind every time!
“We had a strong debut in Portugal, but there are still many aspects we need to improve and Finland will be an even bigger challenge. I tend to go quite well on the faster rallies, and if we can make a good step forward I’ll be happy.
“I had six months to prepare for Portugal, but for Finland it was more like six hours! I got the call and was on my way to the test the very next day. It was total madness, but I felt really comfortable really quickly. The test team did a fantastic job and I think we’ve got a competitive package for the rally.
“But I’ll still need to take the, ‘don’t run before you can walk,’ attitude into next week. I’ve proved my potential, but the reality is that there is a mountain to climb before I’ll be in a position to challenge for the podium. I know that, and I need to get as much experience as possible under my belt.”
Hayden Paddon and John Kennard are making a welcome return to the FIA World Rally Championship next weekend – contesting Rally Finland for the tenth time alongside the team they made their World Rally Car debut with six years ago.
Journeying to Cumbria earlier this week, Paddon was in the workshop – learning everything he needs to know about the Fiesta and reacquainting himself with the team. He and Kennard will next contest a pre-event test on Monday, and have every intention of getting quickly up to speed to challenge for a top result.
Previous starts: 9
Best result: 4th (2018)
Hayden Paddon said:
“We’re really eager to get underway at Rally Finland. It’s been a long time away, and we’re looking forward to getting back in the car. Everyone at M-Sport has been really accommodating and I’ve been in the workshop this week – getting used to the car and the team before taking to the wheel for the first time at the test on Monday.
“It’s going to be an enjoyable rally, and we need to enjoy it first and foremost. But at the same time we’re not just here to make up the numbers. We want to make the most of the opportunity, and naturally want to be competitive.
“We still need keep our expectations in check – we’ve been out of the game for eight months and that could make it quite hard to bridge the gap. But I’m sure we’ll be able to build our speed as the rally progresses, and if the feeling is there from the start then John and I have the experience and the confidence to be mixing it at the top.
“All of the ingredients for a good rally are there, and we hope to put all the pieces of the puzzle together for a good result next week.”
A NEW PARTNER
M-Sport Ford are proud to welcome a new partner as Kuma Bikes supply the team’s transport needs throughout busy event weekends. Delivering green and efficient transport solutions, the innovative eBike company have provided two K1 Bikes – so fans can expect to see the drivers and technicians navigating the world’s service parks on this sporty model.
Kuma Bikes Managing Director, Kevin Lacey, said:
“Kuma Bikes is a new and innovative eBike company providing a green and efficient transport solution that is an ideal fit for the motorsport environment. We are delighted that our bikes will be used by the drivers and team members at various events around the globe. We are sure our bikes will be a great help to all the team members and look forward to seeing them in action. We are proud to be associated with the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team and look forward to a long, successful partnership.”
M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s fantastic to welcome Kuma Bikes to the team. Green energy is a big talking point at the moment, and it’s great for us to have them on board – transporting our team and drivers around the Service Parks of the FIA World Rally Championship.”
The M-Sport Ford World Rally Team will remember Manus Kelly and his passion for rally during next week’s Neste Rally Finland. The Irishman tragically lost his life during this year’s Donegal International Rally, but rallying is a tight-knit community and his love and passion for the sport will not be forgotten. In commemoration, the Ford Fiesta WRCs will carry his memorial ribbon.