CROATIA - M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRCs excelled at this weekend’s Croatia Rally – Adrien Fourmaux delivering an impressive drive to fifth place on his inaugural event at the highest level of competition, and Gus Greensmith showcasing a vast improvement in seventh.
Considered by many as the driver of the weekend, Fourmaux produced a sensational performance on his FIA World Rally Championship debut with the top-specification Fiesta. Already challenging the established elite, nine top-five stage times included two second-fastest times, and the young Frenchman displayed all the hallmarks of a future star.
Identifying where to push and where to be more cautious in their approach, he and co-driver Renaud Jamoul delivered the perfect balance between speed and consistency. And even when they made a small mistake this morning – running wide on cold tyres and losing over a minute beached off the road – they remained calm and were straight back on the pace to consolidate a very impressive and well-deserved fifth-place finish.
Gus Greensmith has also had an extremely positive weekend – delivering his best drive of the season so far. A world rally car is fuelled by confidence as much as anything else, and the young Brit has taken a lot of confidence from the introduction of experienced co-driver Chris Patterson.
Looking more comfortable behind the wheel, the young Brit produced a more assured drive and considerably reduced the gap to the leaders with a string of competitive stage times including the fourth fastest time through yesterday afternoon’s opening speed test.
A hydraulic issue this morning meant he had to forgo a deserved sixth place, but the youngster is enjoying his driving again – something which has always been vital in pursuit of the top times.
Elsewhere in the WRC 2 category, Teemu Suninen and Mikko Markkula delivered a stage-winning performance to bring their EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta Rally2 home in second place overall.
Were it not for an off-road excursion through the opening day of competition, the Finns would have had victory in their grasp – but regrouped to secure a positive result whilst proving the power and performance of M-Sport Ford’s latest global rally car.
Team Principal, Richard Millener, said:
“When you actually stop and think about what Adrien has achieved this weekend, it’s mightily impressive. Four years ago he hadn’t even driven a rally car – and now he’s challenging, and on some stages out-performing, the guys he grew up watching!
“We saw Adrien’s potential very early on, but I think he surpassed even his own expectations this weekend. He and Renaud work so well together and there’s an awareness of everything they do. They know when to push and where to be more cautious; and even when they made a mistake this morning, there was no panic or stress – they just picked themselves up and got straight back on the pace.
“It’s been a very impressive debut, and you can certainly see a resemblance to Ogier in the way he conducts himself. The future of the sport is looking pretty good, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how he progresses with more time in the car.
“Gus too has delivered a really good drive this weekend, and it’s been great to see the positive impact Chris [Patterson, co-driver] is already having in the car. Gus looks the most relaxed he’s been all year, and it’s showing on the stages.
“He’s enjoying his driving again and we’ve seen some very encouraging times from him this weekend. It was a shame he had some technical issues this morning, but when you analyse his performance the speed is there and I have no doubt that he will take the positives away from this weekend and work with Chris to deliver another improvement in Portugal – his favourite event of the year.
“In the WRC 2 category we also saw a strong drive from Teemu and Mikko. It was a stage-winning performance from the pair of them, and without that small mistake on Friday it could have easily been a rally-winning performance!
“Let’s not forget how competitive this category is with rally winners all vying for the top results alongside some of the sport’s most promising up-and-coming young drivers – and Teemu held his pace and the pace of the Fiesta against them all.”
Adrien Fourmaux (5th) said:
“I’m so happy with our weekend and the only disappointment is that the rally is now over! It’s been a big challenge on the Croatian roads but I have enjoyed every kilometre; and taken a lot of pleasure from driving this car on these stages.
“We showed good speed throughout the weekend and honestly there were more positives than we had been expecting. We improved our pace a lot and I achieved all of my goals and more.
“I want to say a big thank you to everyone in the team, and I am so grateful to M-Sport and Red Bull for this incredible opportunity – and to everyone who has supported me over the past four years.”
Gus Greensmith (7th) said:
“The majority of the weekend has been pretty positive, and I was 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, but I can see a clear way forward and everything seems to be working well.
“I was fairly confident of maintaining sixth place today, so it was a shame to lose that with the technical issues this morning. But all in all, I’ve really enjoyed the weekend and looking forward to seeing what we can do at one of my favourite events next time out in Portugal.”
Teemu Suninen (2nd WRC 2) said:
“It’s been a really challenging rally but in the end I would say that our performance was pretty good. We didn’t get a test in dry conditions so we had to learn a lot through the early stages. It was a shame to have lost some time with a mistake on Friday, but we found a way to drive fast and show the performance of the car which was good.”
M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Adrien Fourmaux and Renaud Jamoul continued to deliver a formidable performance on their FIA World Rally Championship debut with the EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC on Saturday, April 24.
Second only to the young Frenchman’s rally hero, Sébastien Ogier, through Saturday's opening speed test, the pairing are already proving themselves capable of challenging the established elite.
Focussing their attentions on the first stage of the loop, they posted the second fastest time on both visits to the 20-kilometre stage – and were denied the fastest time by just 1.1 seconds over the afternoon’s pass.
Combining this indication of their potential with a more measured approach to the remaining speed tests, the Franco-Belgian partnership are on course to secure fifth place overall – a feat thus far achieved with seven top-five stage times.
Gus Greensmith is also enjoying an impressive drive this weekend. And despite struggling to match Friday's confidence Saturday morning, the young Brit was quick to turn things around – validation once again of the positive impact Chris Patterson is having in the car.
Second fastest through the opening five-kilometre split section, Greensmith went on to post the fourth fastest time through the afternoon’s opening stage. And having considerably reduced the deficit to the leaders, the Brit is on course to secure his best result of the year in sixth place overall.
Elsewhere in the WRC 2 category, Teemu Suninen and Mikko Markkula are up to second place behind the wheel of their EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta Rally2 and relishing an intense battle over tomorrow’s closing stages.
There was however less good news for Tom Kristensson and David Arhusiander whose rally came to an untimely end with a small mistake on the first stage of the day.
Sustaining too much damage the FIA Junior WRC Champion’s Ford Fiesta Rally2 was retired from the event, but the young Swede should take solace from the impressive pace shown on his debut with the four-wheel-drive Fiesta.
Team Principal, Richard Millener, said:
“We’ve seen another fantastic drive from Adrien and Renaud today. I said yesterday that their performance was exactly what we wanted to see, and they’ve surpassed that today. There’s no doubting Adrien’s talent behind the wheel, and watching the way the two of them work I can already see glimpses of Seb [Ogier] and Julian [Ingrassia]. They have an awareness of everything they do – targeting where to show their pace, and where to be more cautious – and it’s certainly paying off this weekend.
“Gus has also had another really good day, and it’s great to see the positive influence Chris’ experience is bringing to the car. Gus will be the first to admit that he struggled to find his rhythm this morning and could have easily got himself into a bit of a rut. But he had a complete reset over lunch and came out to set the second fastest time through the afternoon’s opening split and fourth fastest overall. He was enjoying his driving again, and as we’ve always said – when a driver enjoys his driving, the times will come.
“Teemu has also had a strong day in WRC 2 with another stage-winning performance behind the wheel of the Ford Fiesta Rally2. He’s in a big battle tomorrow over some very tricky stages, but he’s up for the fight and keen to bring home the best possible result.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t see much of Tom today as he had quite a high-speed off on the opening stage – putting an end to his weekend’s rallying. I know how intensely he feels the disappointment, but it’s really important that he puts it behind him and tries to focus on the positives – of which there are many. This was his debut in the four-wheel-drive Fiesta and his pace through those initial stages was very impressive.”
Adrien Fourmaux (5th) said:
“This has been a perfect day for us and I’m really happy with how everything has gone. We really focused on the first stage of the loop which is an amazing piece of road and so enjoyable to drive – especially the downhill section towards the end where it feels just like you’re skiing from left to right.
“We worked more on this stage than any of the others and it was great to see that when we really focus the pace can already be right at the top. Then on the other stages we were being a lot more careful as it’s easy to make a mistake.
“There have already been more positives than we expected this weekend, and I’m really, really happy with that. All of my targets have already been achieved, and I’m just sad that we only have one more day to drive this amazing car!”
Gus Greensmith (6th) said:
“It was a bit frustrating this morning when we weren’t quite on the same pace we had yesterday. To be fair, the car has been really good all weekend but I was just struggling a bit with the notes and adjusting to not having as much information in there.
“But all I needed was a bit of a reset, which came from three people in the team – and I’m sure you can guess who those three were! They told me just to enjoy myself a bit more and stop complaining when the time isn’t quite there.
“And they’re so right – I’m still doing the best job in the world and as soon as I relaxed everything felt a lot better and we set some much better times this afternoon.”
Teemu Suninen (2nd WRC 2) said:
“This is quite a tricky rally but I’m really enjoying the challenge. Today has been good and we’ve had a good feeling in the car with some top times, but it’s going to be a tough day tomorrow with a really big fight. It’s a proper day with narrow stages and big crests, and we will need to push hard to keep the second position. But this is what we plan to do and I will just try to do my best.”
Tom Kristensson (DNF) said:
“This isn’t the start to the season that we wanted, and I’m so sorry for the mistake I made today. We had a small issue with the pacenotes at the beginning of the stage. We found our pace again, but I was struggling with my focus and it was a millisecond of lost concentration that resulted in quite a heavy crash. The car is quite badly damaged, but the most important thing is that me and David are both okay.
“It was completely my fault and I’m really, really sorry for the team. I was living a dream, and it turned into a nightmare – but these things can happen and I know that I need to put it behind me and focus on the positives to come back stronger. I’m sorry that I didn’t show my full potential this weekend, but I hope we can come back and prove it at the next rally.
“I want to say a big thank you to everyone who is following me on this journey, and to the team who have been brilliant to work with this weekend. Good luck to Adrien, Gus and Teemu – and I hope they can all bring home a good team result tomorrow.”