WRC - Double podium for M-Sport Ford at Rally Portugal
But a costly DNF for Ogier
M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRCs secured a double podium at this weekend’s Vodafone Rally de Portugal – Elfyn Evans and Teemu Suninen claiming second and third places respectively.
Giving the whole team a huge boost, both drivers have proved their ability to fight for the top positions – Evans with his first top-three result of the year, and Suninen taking his maiden podium less than 12 months after first taking to the wheel of the top-specification Fiesta.
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“A double podium is exactly what we wanted today, and our two drivers got the job done. It was great to see both Elfyn and Teemu performing so strongly this weekend, and it’s given the team a big boost of confidence for both championships moving forward.
“This result is exactly what Elfyn needed, and he did a great job – setting fastest times and delivering a flawless drive through some very tricky conditions. He said himself that there is still room for improvement, and hopefully this result can act as a springboard for him to get even better as the season continues.
“We all knew that it wouldn’t be long before we saw Teemu on the podium, and he thoroughly deserves to be there today. He was free to push and wanted to show what he could do – something he didn’t disappoint on. His pace was consistently strong and, when things weren’t going his way, he didn’t let it draw his focus. I am sure that this will be the first of many podiums.
“After making an uncharacteristic mistake on Friday afternoon, it’s been a pretty frustrating weekend for Sébastien and that frustration only continued today. Given his position on the road we knew it would be difficult for him to score any points in the Power Stage, but we had to give it a go. It didn’t work out, so we retired the car and I have no doubt that he and Julien will come back strongly in Sardinia.”
EVANS AND BARRITT
Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt are back in business – securing their first podium of the year with second place at this weekend’s Rally de Portugal.
Finding the perfect balance between speed and intelligence, the Brits posted three fastest stage times whilst giving the notoriously difficult stages the respect they deserved. It was a faultless drive from the Welshman, and a long overdue boost for his confidence.
Adamant that there is more to come, Evans will now focus on further gains behind the wheel of his EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC – eager to stand on the top step of the podium before the year is out.
Elfyn Evans (2nd) said:
“I’m happy with this result, and a bit relieved too if I’m honest! Everyone knows that our season didn’t get off to the best of starts. Monte started well with the exception of the puncture, but one thing led to another and it quickly snowballed into what was becoming a pretty dismal season.
“We knew coming here that we needed to get some strong points on the board – for the team and for us as well. So to come away with second place was good. It wasn’t perfect, and there are some areas where we can still improve. I wasn’t entirely happy with my driving through all of the stages, but it’s certainly alleviated the pressure and we can go to Sardinia in a positive frame of mind.”
SUNINEN AND MARKKULA
Teemu Suninen has claimed his first of what are sure to be many podiums at this weekend’s Rally de Portugal. Guided through the stages by compatriot co-driver Mikko Markkula, the pairing piloted their EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC to third place overall.
With previous knowledge of the Portuguese stages, Suninen was free to push and did not disappoint. Regularly outperforming his more experienced rivals, the young Finn pushed hard – a series of consistently strong drives including the fastest time through the penultimate speed test.
Ensuring no one had forgotten his potential, this result is sure to be the catalyst for more strong performances as the season continues.
Teemu Suninen (3rd) said:
“It’s really great to get my first podium here in Portugal – the first one is always special and I think it will be a big step for my career. I was really happy with my driving all weekend. We struggled a bit to find the limit on Friday morning as I had to get used to driving this car on these stages, but after that I was able to push and set some really good times.
“I want to thank the team for their trust in me and for the good support that they gave me all weekend. I’m really happy that I could pay them back with these good points for the championship.”
OGIER AND INGRASSIA
Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia got this year’s Rally de Portugal off to another impressive start – minimising the time loss whilst opening the road and sitting just 7.3 seconds adrift of the lead after the opening loop.
But a record-breaking sixth victory on Portuguese soil wasn’t to be – an uncharacteristic mistake putting paid to their chances of challenging for the win.
Damaging the suspension of their EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC when cutting a corner too deep through the second pass of Viana do Castelo (SS5), the pairing ran wide into the following corner and all hope of victory ended in the trees.
Returning under Rally 2 regulations, the five-time World Champions had little to fight for bar salvaging some points through the Power Stage. When the disadvantage of an earlier running order prevented his charge, the team retired the number one Fiesta at the final service.
Sébastien Ogier (DNF) said:
“It wasn’t the best weekend for us. We had the package and the speed to win, but that’s how it goes sometimes. For sure it wasn’t a big mistake that we made on Friday, but it came with big consequences. It’s a part of motorsport and you just have to accept it.
“As expected, the Power Stage was difficult. We tried as hard as we could, but I couldn’t go faster from that position on the road. I was on the limit and you could see the times improving with every car so there was nothing we could do.
“Things like this can happen and you just have to turn the page and look forward to the next one. We’ll be back in two weeks’ time at Rally Sardegna, where I’m sure we’ll be strong again.”