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WRC – Eager to "snow" what they can do

M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRCs are preparing to tackle the second and only winter round of the FIA World Rally Championship at next week’s Rally Sweden. With mild weather creating challenging conditions, the rally will run a reduced schedule but the team remain eager to show what they can do.

Chasing the most accurate and representative conditions ahead of the event, Esapekka Lappi and Teemu Suninen will conduct a pre-event test on location this weekend. Discovering the conditions and how they could impact set-up and tyre management, the team will learn all they can before heading direct to the rally which gets underway with a one-day reconnaissance on Wednesday.

M-Sport Ford has a strong track record at the Swedish fixture – with six victories and 24 podiums at the highest level since 1997, and five wins and 13 podiums in the premier support series since 2010. Looking to replicate those successes next week, the team’s ‘Ladder of Opportunity’ is well represented and the Blue Oval accounts for 44 percent of the entry.

Running the Fiesta WRCs as well as two Ford Fiesta R5 MkIIs in the WRC 2 category, Rally Sweden also marks the start of this year’s FIA Junior WRC Championship – a one-make feeder series in which 16 of the sport’s brightest future stars will go head-to-head in identical Ford Fiesta R2T19s prepared by M-Sport Poland.

Team Principal, Richard Millener, said: « Rally Sweden is an iconic event in the FIA World Rally Championship, and I think we’re all grateful to Glenn [Olsson, Rally Sweden CEO] and his team for all their hard work in ensuring it goes ahead in what have been some very challenging conditions. It’s not been easy with the mild weather, but the organisers have been extremely proactive over the last few weeks – working closely with the teams and the FIA and ensuring everything’s in place to deliver another close-fought rally. It will be a very different event to what we’re used to, but the main thing is that we will have an event. Historically this has always been a strong rally for us, and we’re confident of another strong showing next week. Esapekka and Teemu both did well here last year – Esapekka claiming the runner-up spot and Teemu leading a rally for the first time in his career. The Fiesta was also very competitive with five stage wins, and we plan to replicate that this year. Due to delays with the event finalisation, the team will get their first taste of the conditions at a pre-event test this weekend – but that should give us an accurate and up-to-date view of the expected conditions; and we’re ready show what we can do. »

LAPPI / FERM Claiming a solid fourth place at the season opener in Monte-Carlo last month, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm will be looking to build on that performance next week. Rally Sweden is a successful event for the Finns who have never finished lower than fourth in their three previous encounters with the snow-covered stages. Finishing second at the event last year, the pairing were just shy of the podium in 2018 and secured a top-three position in the WRC 2 category when making their Rally Sweden debut in 2016.

Previous starts: 3 Best result: 2nd (2019)

Esapekka Lappi said: « I’ve had some good results at Rally Sweden – especially last year when we finished second on our second event with a new car so let’s see if we can do the same again this year! Of course the competition will be strong and no one really knows what the conditions will be like, but we will give it our best. We’re testing this weekend when we’ll get our first indication of what to expect. The Swedish stages are always fast, which I enjoy, but there could only be a small layer of ice which will make tyre management pretty important when it comes to retaining the studs for the whole loop. Fourth on the road could be a decent position, but let’s wait and see. »

SUNINEN / LEHTINEN Rally Sweden is a strong event for Teemu Suninen who delivered a breakthrough performance on the frozen stages last year – stage-winning pace seeing him lead an event for the first time in his career. And with experienced co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen alongside him – a man with two wins and five podiums at the Swedish fixture – Suninen will be looking to combine his speed with renewed consistency this year.

Previous starts: 4 Best result: 8th (2018)

Teemu Suninen said: « Last year we found a good set-up for the soft snow and rutted conditions, and it worked really well for us – leading after the first full day and showing good speed throughout the weekend. This year the plan is to show that same speed consistently and without mistakes. Of course a lot will depend on the weather. It’s great that the organisers have been able to make the rally happen, but we will have to wait and see what the conditions are like. I’m hoping for snow, and we’ll have a test this weekend to prepare. Whatever the weather, we will give it our best and I hope to be in a good battle. »

Fiesta R5 MKII ready for Sweden

M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Adrien Fourmaux and Rhys Yates are ready to tackle the second and only winter rally in the FIA World Rally Championship – their EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta R5 MkIIs geared up for this week’s Rally Sweden.

Both drivers got a taste of the event last year – Fourmaux sampling the ice and snow behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta R2T19, while Yates learnt the art of winter rallying in a Fiesta R5 MkI.

Competing in the highly-competitive WRC 2 category, the pairing will be keen to put that experience to good use this year as they go head-to-head with some of rallying’s most accomplished snow specialists. Due to unseasonably mild conditions of late, the crews will run a reduced route covering 11 stages and 170 competitive kilometres – making a mistake-free run of vital importance whilst also being quick out of the box.

Both drivers will conduct a pre-event test tomorrow (Tuesday), with Yates also testing on location last week. The young Brit was also in action on the opening round of the British Rally Championship last weekend – piloting his Fiesta R5 MkII to the third step of the podium at the Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally in Wales.

Team Principal, Richard Millener, said: « Rally Sweden is a classic, and I think Adrien and Rhys are both really looking forward to getting out there and experiencing these incredible stages with the Ford Fiesta R5 MkII. They’re going up against some pretty experienced snow specialists in WRC 2 – most of whom have a lot of knowledge when it comes to this rally – so we have to be realistic, if a little optimistic too. The goal is for Adrien and Rhys to learn as much as they can whilst enjoying every second – and if we run a clever rally, anything can happen. »

Adrien Fourmaux said: « It’s really nice to hear that the organisers have found a way for us to go rallying and we can say a big thanks to the Rally Sweden team for that. This is the only full-snow rally on the calendar, and that makes it really special. Driving in the forests with the white landscape and hundreds of fans makes it a beautiful rally, and I’m really looking forward to getting back out there this year. I competed in Sweden last year, but this will be my first time with the Fiesta R5 which makes it a completely new experience for me with more speed and totally different lines. The biggest challenge will be in trusting the grip and speed through the corners and learning how to fight on the same level as the locals – but I can’t wait to get started. I plan to enjoy every second, and if I can deliver a smart rally and leave with good points, good stage times and a good experience I’ll be very happy. »

Rhys Yates said: « We’ve got a really good feeling with the car at the moment and I’ve never felt more comfortable on gravel than I did with the Fiesta at the Cambrian last weekend. The pace was pretty quick at times – as it will be this week in Sweden – so you’ve got to be comfortable with the car moving about underneath you. You’ve got to be comfortable with it going sideways in fifth gear. I got that feeling in Wales and that’s great for me. I want to hit the ground running in Sweden. We’ve got a test on Tuesday and then the rally starts Thursday. One thing I’m so chuffed with is how much time I’m getting in the car. By the time Sweden starts I’ll have been in this Fiesta four times in a week – I’ve never had that much seat time before and that can only be good for the confidence! »

Press release M-Sport Ford


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