Finland denies fast Fiestas

"It’s been a rally of highs and lows"

By Franck Drui

31 July 2016 - 16:19
Finland denies fast Fiestas

M-Sport’s Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta RS WRC had the speed to secure a strong result at this weekend’s Neste Rally Finland – claiming seven stage victories and challenging for the lead through the early stages.

Six of those stage victories belonged to the man who had the pace to win. Piloting his M-Sport prepared Fiesta, Ott Tänak was just 0.7 seconds adrift of the lead when he lost 50 seconds with broken suspension on the first pass of Surkee (SS5).

His bad luck continued with a front-right puncture on the second pass of Surkee (SS10) and a rear-left puncture through the first pass of Pihlajakoski (SS15). Yet despite losing more than a minute and a half to the leaders, he and co-driver Raigo Mõlder fought back to challenge for a podium position on the final day of competition.

Fate however had other ideas and denied the Estonians once again. With just 4.8 seconds to find in 27.13 kilometres, Tänak went off the road – hitting a rock after a crest and bringing his impressive performance to an end.

In the M-Sport World Rally Team, Mads Østberg and co-driver Ola Fløene were also setting stage-winning pace – posting the fastest time through the first pass of Saalahti (SS16). Thoroughly enjoying the flat-out blasts through the Finnish forests, the pairing put their experience to good use and also found themselves in the six-way battle for the podium.

Despite having to settle for sixth place overall, Østberg delivered a solid performance this weekend – progressing since the last outing in Poland. Following more than 330 competitive kilometres though some of the most demanding roads in the FIA World Rally Championship, the Norwegian finished just 20 seconds adrift of the podium.

In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Eric Camilli and Benjamin Veillas demonstrated their potential with a series of competitive performances that challenged their more experienced rivals. Unfortunately, the Frenchman’s inexperience was to prove his undoing through the first pass of Päijälä (SS14).

An overly optimistic pacenote was the culprit – forcing the pair into a high-speed roll. Thanks to the strength of the Fiesta, both walked away unscathed and are now fully focused on the asphalt outings that follow.

In the WRC 2 category, Elfyn Evans and Craig Parry were also securing stage victories – proving the Fiesta’s performance at all levels of competition and challenging the Scandinavians who are historically hard to beat in Finland.

Once again however, the Fiesta’s speed was to go cruelly unrewarded. Holding a strong second place behind local hero Esapekka Lappi, Evans suffered a power failure which left him without power steering on the second pass of Surkee (SS10).

Having dropped to sixth place overall, the Welshman posted a string of highly competitive times to climb back up to third place and claim valuable championship points.

Mads Østberg (6th) said:

“It’s been a really good weekend and we’ve been pushing hard on all of the stages. There’s been a fantastic fight for the podium throughout the entire rally. It’s quite incredible to see so many cars fighting for the top positions – and it’s just a shame that we’ve finished towards the end of that fight.

“I felt something wasn’t quite right on the back of the car and that prevented us pushing to our maximum today. It’s a shame that’s the way it ended – and that we had to settle for sixth – but that’s just the way it goes sometimes.”

Éric Camilli (DNF) said:

“We knew before the rally that it would be challenging. Like Sweden, it is hard for a Frenchman to come here for the first time in a world rally car and show immediate speed, but I was actually quite pleasantly surprised by our times.

“It was a pleasure to be battling with the guys who have a lot more experience than us and we were gaining a lot of confidence with every stage. Maybe we gained a little too much confidence!

“Through the first pass of Ouninpohja (SS13) we could see that our pacenotes were too slow. All of our minuses were in fact pluses, so I decided to change them for the next stage (SS14). But one left-hand corner was a minus, not a plus. We went wide into the ditch and rolled the car at high-speed.

“Thankfully both myself and Ben were okay which is the most important thing and we have to put this one down to experience. We’ve learnt a lot this weekend and I think we have shown that we have the potential to do well in the future.

“Now, we are really looking forward to the Tarmac rallies. I have a lot more experience on that surface and a lot more knowledge. Germany is an event that I know quite well, and I hope it will be possible to do something there.”

Elfyn Evans (3rd WRC 2) said:

“It’s been a challenging weekend. Some problems on Friday put us on the back foot and dropped us down to sixth. Third place was probably the best we could have hoped for after that. We’ve had a clean rally with no mistakes and the speed has been really good in places too. It’s a shame as the result could have been a lot more.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:

“It’s been a rally of highs and lows, but we have to focus on the positives. The biggest positive has to be the performance of the Fiesta. Once again, we have proven that we have the pace to challenge for rally wins.

“We’ve secured seven stage victories this weekend, six of which come from Ott and Raigo. It’s just unfortunate that they weren’t able to translate an impressive comeback into a podium finish today.

“Mads has had a good weekend. He’s come away with sixth place, but when you look at the gaps he’s not far from the podium which is a big improvement on Poland.

“Eric will be kicking himself about yesterday’s mistake, but it’s all part of the learning curve and he’s already focused on the next event. He has a passion and determination to improve every aspect of his performance. That’s the sort of attitude that gives a driver the edge when nearing their full potential.

“Elfyn has driven extremely well this weekend. It’s incredibly difficult to beat the Finns in Finland and Lappi knows this place like the back of his hand. It was a shame to suffer some problems as Elfyn had the better of the rest of the field. Nevertheless, he comes away with a podium and secured some stage victories that prove the performance of the Fiesta R5 Evo.”



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