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WRC – M-Sport seek Spanish success

As the FIA World Rally Championship returns to action, there remains all to play for and M-Sport will be hoping to continue their success on the mixed-surface terrain of RallyRACC Catalyuna – Rally de España. With the Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC leading the way in both championships, the Spanish fixture could prove pivotal – the team having their first, albeit very slim, mathematical chance of clinching the manufacturers’ crown.


RallyRACC Catalunya – Rally de España provides a unique challenge as the only mixed surface event on the calendar; a day of gravel followed by one and a half days of the smoothest, circuit-like asphalt. The action kicks off on Friday with six gravels tests in the hills west of Salou. Fast and technical in nature, the crews will also have to tackle the daunting Terra Alta stage with close to 40 kilometres of gravel interspersed with long stretches of asphalt.

Then it’s over to the mechanics as they convert the competition cars from their gravel to asphalt specifications. What could take up to 12 hours on a standard road car, is done in a mere 75 minute service – the team expertly changing a whole host of components including the suspension, brakes, gearbox, rear differential, steering rack and cross members.

Over the weekend, the crews head north to tackle a further 13 speed tests on pure asphalt. Whereas Friday’s action remains unchanged, the weekend ushers in a host of new roads to test the crews through some of the season’s most famous Tarmac. Having completed a total of 312.02 competitive kilometres come the end of the rally, the victor will have mastered the art of mixed-surface rallying and excelled through both the loose- and sealed-surface terrain.


M-Sport currently leads both the Manufacturers’ and Drivers’ FIA World Rally Championship but Team Principal Malcolm Wilson OBE remains acutely aware of how crucial the final three events will be.

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said: “We’ve had a fantastic season to date, and we’re now entering the decisive final phase. The competition could not be closer and the next three rallies will be crucial – Rally Spain in particular. With its mix of gravel and asphalt, this event is truly unique and the teams will have to master both surfaces in their pursuit of victory. Having secured a podium on every event this season, the Fiesta has proven competitive on every surface and we hope to see that continue next week. Sébastien certainly knows what it takes to win here, and Ott and Elfyn will both be determined to settle a few scores. A strong result will be imperative to the outcome of the championship, and that is exactly what we aim to deliver. It won’t be easy by any stretch of the imagination, and the competition will be extremely tough, but I have confidence in the team who are working their hardest to deliver our best.”


Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia know what it takes to master the mixed-surface terrain of Rally Spain. The Frenchmen have secured victory at the Spanish fixture on three separate occasions and will be determined to deliver another strong result next week. Fully refreshed after the summer break, the World Champion has relaxed with family and friends whilst also hosting a meeting with his Fan Club in Lyon. Currently holding a 17 point lead at the head of the driver and co-driver standings, Ogier and Ingrassia will be aiming to maintain and extend that lead ahead of the season showdown.

Previous starts: 9 Best result: 1st (2016, 2014 and 2013)

Sébastien Ogier said: “We’re feeling fully refreshed after the break and ready to get back to business. Spain is always an enjoyable event. Its mixed surface makes it truly unique and the fans are so enthusiastic. I have a lot of special memories here, and it would be nice to add to them next week. Opening the road is a good thing in one sense as it means that we are back in the lead of the championship. But if it’s dry the championship lead also comes with its challenges and we’ll need to work hard to minimise the time loss through the opening gravel stages. Then, it’s onto the fast, smooth asphalt that this event is famed for. We had a one-day test to get used to this circuit-like asphalt and the car felt pretty good. We completed a lot of kilometres for a one-day test, and that sees us well prepared to deliver our best. With the championships so close, that’s exactly what we will have to deliver. We have a 17 point lead, but with 90 points still available there remains all to play for and we all need to work together to maximise our potential – starting with Rally Spain.”


Fresh from victory at the previous round in Germany, Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja have proven performance on both gravel and asphalt. As such, next week’s dual-surface encounter poses no apprehension and the Estonians are keen to deliver their best performance at the Spanish fixture – extending both their and the team’s championship position. During the summer break, Tänak hasn’t strayed too far from his Ford Fiesta WRC, and was behind the wheel at Rallyday in the UK – entertaining the thousands of fans as he delivered the debut public appearance of a new-generation World Rally Car on UK soil.

Previous starts: 4 Best result: 6th (2016)

Ott Tänak said: “I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel. It was really nice to have some time at home with the family, but I have to admit that I was also starting to miss the thrill of competition! We’ve proved that we can be competitive on both gravel and asphalt, so I’m not daunted by the mixed surface of Spain. Going from one surface to the next in the same weekend can be a little strange at first, but we all get up to speed pretty quickly. The gravel roads are really nice with a mix of fast and technical sections and we had a Tarmac test in Spain last week which reminded me just how amazing those roads are. They’re so smooth and it really is like driving on a circuit in some places. With both championships so close at the moment, I think we’re in for an interesting weekend and we’ll certainly be aiming to deliver our best for both the manufacturers’ and the drivers’.”


Elfyn Evans hasn’t had the best of fortunes at Rally Spain, but the Welshman is eager to put that right next week. Just two points shy of the top-five in the drivers’ standings, there remains all to play for and a strong result could elevate all three M-Sport drivers into the overall top-five. Armed with a new gravel tyre, Evans also has one of the championship’s most experienced co-drivers at his side as Dan Barritt celebrates his 100th WRC start in Spain. During the summer break, Evans joined team mate Tänak at Rallyday before venturing to Red Bull Hardline – supporting his fellow Red Bull athletes at what is hailed one of the toughest downhill mountain bike races in the world.

Previous starts: 4 Best result: 14th (2014)

Elfyn Evans said: “As the only mixed-surface event on the calendar, Rally Spain is really unique. I’ve not had the best of luck there in the past, but we’ll be hoping to put that right this year. The gravel stages can be quite technical and on the Terra Alta stage we have long sections of asphalt in amongst the gravel. That can make the car move around quite a lot and you have to drive with the whole stage in mind. It’s quite a strategic rally in that sense and you have to think about the long game with a day and a half of pure Tarmac to follow the gravel. The weather could also prove a deciding factor so it’ll be interesting to see what the Spanish forecasts have to offer us this year. With the championship so close, this event could be really crucial and we’re all determined to deliver our best.”

M-Sport will field six Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta R5s at next weekend’s RallyRACC Catalunya – Rally de España, three of which will compete in the WRC 2 category. Here’s what they had to say ahead of the FIA World Rally Championship’s only mixed-surface event.

Teemu Suninen (WRC 2) said: “Rally Spain is always an interesting rally with the two different surfaces. We start on gravel, and then all the suspension and gearbox will be changed to Tarmac spec for the next day and a half. It’s not an easy rally in that sense – for both the drivers and the mechanics as the car will be totally different. We need to be ready and fully focused for the first day on both surfaces so that we can deliver some strong times straight away. Good points are my main goal as there is still a good chance of clinching silver in the WRC 2 Championship.”

Éric Camilli said: “With its mix of gravel and asphalt, Rally Spain is really unique. It’s an event that I enjoy and the Tarmac stages are especially nice to drive – it’s as close to a race circuit as we get and it really is a pleasure to drive flat-out on those roads. The transition from gravel to Tarmac means that you have to be fully focused and quickly adapt your driving style to be fully up to speed. We’ve delivered some strong performances on both surfaces in recent rallies, so I hope that we can challenge for a top result.”

Gus Greensmith (WRC 2) said: “I made sure that I gave myself some time to relax during the break. I’ve been working to find a better balance between my rally life and my life at home. That’s really helped me to clear my mind and I’m feeling fully refreshed and focused for the next event. I also spent a week in the workshop with the M-Sport lads which was really useful as I now have a better understanding of the technical side. The biggest challenge in Spain is always adapting to the change from gravel to Tarmac. It’s a challenge to get into the swing of it straight away, but I’m looking forward to it – and especially to the gravel stages on Friday. I’ll definitely be bringing my A-game to Spain and we’re planning on going for it.”

Pierre-Louis Loubet said: “It’s been a long break since Germany and I’ve been doing a lot of physical training with a lot of running. I also spent a few days at the workshop at M-Sport – working on my car and improving my mechanical knowledge. Rally Spain is a great event and I’m looking forward to it. You need to perform strongly on both surfaces, but for me the Tarmac in Spain is really amazing. We plan to give it everything through both surfaces, and hope to finish with the best possible position.”

Jon Armstrong (WRC 2) said: “Since Germany, I’ve not had a lot of seat time but did manage to get a couple of gravel kilometre with the Fiesta R5 thanks to Enda McCormack. Apart from that, my preparation has involved spending a lot of time in the gym as well as using the simulator and doing some homework on the stages. This event is really unique with one day on gravel before switching straight to Tarmac. This is probably the biggest challenge as you have to flick the reset button overnight which some drivers do better than others. The gravel can be rough in places, especially if there is rain, so I hope it stays dry. The other challenge is making your Pacenotes for the wide Spanish Tarmac. It can be a tricky one to get right so I’ll be making sure that I get a good feel for the road on the recce. I think we showed some good speed in Germany, and I will be looking to turn that into more consistent pace next week. We won the DDFT round in Spain last year, so I’m pretty confident about the stages and can’t wait to attack them with the Fiesta R5. The top-three in WRC 2 is possible, but we’ll have to deliver a clean and consistent run throughout the weekend if we want to achieve that goal.”

Press release M-Sport


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