M-Sport Encouraged by Croatia Performance

M-Sport Ford World Rally Team's EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRCs excelled at Croatia Rally with 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 fueled 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.

28th April, 2021

Ogier's Croatia Victory from Evans & Neuville

Rally Croatia's debut as a round of the World Rally Championship ended in a nail-biting finish between Toyota teammates Sebastien Ogier and Elfyn Evans, together with the Hyundai of Thierry Neuville, concluding in favour of Ogier by just 0.6 seconds after three days of action.

As a result, Ogier now reclaims the championship lead that he held following Rally Monte Carlo, with Neuville holding second in the points following his third successive podium finish. An early Sunday start saw Evans taking the initiative, as he felt Saturday's stages had required him to be brave and decisive. As a result, the Welshman claimed a stage win from Neuville to start the final day, closing the gap to leader Ogier from 6.9 seconds overnight to 4.3s.

Ogier had meanwhile hit trouble when a road traffic accident on the way to the opening stage knocked away some of the sensitive aerodynamic integrity of his Yaris WRC. On the following stage, Evans won again from Neuville with Ogier dropping 8.4s and handing the overall lead to the Welshman. On their second pass through the opening stage of the day, Neuville went fastest by 0.4s from an in-control Evans, with Ogier a further 1.5s behind.

The top three crews were then separated by 8s, with Hyundai's Ott Tanak holding fourth place more than a minute behind and taking things gently to preserve his tyres for the points-scoring powerstage. Running in reverse order, Tanak was the first to make a bid for the five bonus points but he struggled with the dirt thrown onto the stage by the early runners and fell short of the provisional fastest time set his teammate Craig Breen.

With 8s to find, Neuville threw his i20 WRC through the stage but, the Belgian hit a patch of dirt on the approach to the last major junction and lost more than 2s. Ogier ran next and delivered a memorable save when his Yaris bottomed-out on a flat-out stretch and almost pitched him into a house but he recovered to go provisionally fastest by 3s.

This left Evans with a reasonable target, but a slow opening sector reduced his advantage to less than a second. That time was recovered in the next sector, where Ogier almost came to grief, but then the Welshman was caught out in the final right-left complex, ploughing over a village green before regaining the road and crossing the line having fallen short by just 0.6s.

The result stands as the third closest finish in WRC history, replacing Evans and Neuville's 0.7s gap at the end of the 2017 Rally Argentina. Only the 2007 Rally New Zealand (0.3s) and the 2011 Jordan Rally (0.2s) are closer in the history books.

Ogier said: "I was thinking it would not be enough. It looks like it really went close up to the last metres, maybe a last mistake from Elfyn hand us the win but I think over the weekend the whole team have done an amazing job. Of course the emotion for us now is super strong it's like it was a crazy rollercoaster for us this weekend between the puncture (on Friday) the issue this morning obviously and I was glad to still be in the race honestly and now just to catch this, like this, I guess that's why we do this sport for the emotion."

Ott Tanak was an uncharacteristically low-key fourth for Hyundai and Adrien Fourmaux fifth for M-Sport, just in front of Takamoto Katsuta's Toyota sixth, Gus Greensmith's WRC Fiesta seventh and Craig Breen's Hyundai eighth.

Rally Croatia was the third WRC round out of 12 and the championship continues with its first gravel round of 2021, Rally Portugal, starting on 20 May.

2021 Drivers Championship

1. Sebastien Ogier 61
2. Thierry Neuville 53
3. Elfyn Evans 51
4. Ott Tanak 40
5. Kalle Rovanpera 39
6. Craig Breen 24
7. Takamoto Katsuta 24
8. Adrien Fourmaux 12
9. Gus Greensmith 12
10. Dani Sordo 11

2021 Manufacturers Championship

1. Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT 138
2. Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT 111
3. M-Sport Ford WRT 42
4. Hyundai 2C Competition 28

25th April, 2021

Rally Croatia Update - Ogier in RTA

A bizarre road traffic accident between Sebasien Ogier's Toyota and another vehicle (View on YouTube) happened on a section of dual carriageway, with the impact causing damage to the co-driver's side of Ogier's Toyota Yaris World Rally Car. Both Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia escaped uninjured but were forced to carry out repairs on the supermini, which was then cleared as safe to continue by FIA technical delegates.

Ogier led into the final day by 6.9 seconds but his advantage was trimmed by teammate Elfyn Evans to 4.2 seconds on stage 17 before losing top spot to the Welshman on the antepenultimate test. With one stage remaining - the 8.8-mile Zagorska Sela to Kumrovec power stage - Evans enjoys a slender 3.9 second lead over Ogier, with Hyundai's Thierry Neuville a further 4.1 seconds adrift in third place.

25th April, 2021

Neuville Leads from Ogier in Croatia

Hyundai's Thierry Neuville held the overnight lead from Sebastien Ogier following the first day of Rally Croatia's World Rally Championship debut, covering eight stages with challenging variations in the quality of the surface, one corner to the next. Croatia is the WRC's first all-asphalt rally since Germany 2019.

Current championship leader, Toyota's 20-year-old star Kalle Rovanpera, held a distinct advantage heading the field into the opening stage, but the WRC's youngest-ever points leader endured a nightmare opening stage, when he rolled out of the rally on an acute right-hand corner less than a mile from the end of the stage.

Rovanpera's demise handed the role of leading the field to Neuville, who duly won three of the four stages in the morning loop, failing to capitalize on Stage 3 when Britain's Elfyn Evans recorded the first fastest time of the day for Toyota. Evans held second place at the end of the first loop, 7.3 seconds behind Neuville and 5s in front of his team-mate, seven-time WRC champion Sebastien Ogier, in third.

In fact, Ogier narrowly avoided coming to grief at the same corner as Rovanpera and was lucky to escape with just a puncture, which cost him only a couple of seconds over the short distance to the stage end, but the Frenchman found his speed on the afternoon run through the loop, winning three of the four stages to pass team mate Evans for second place. This put Ogier well and truly back in the lead battle and his stage 7 win also his 600th WRC career stage win!

24th April, 2021

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