Rally Sweden made a successful return to the World Rally Championship calendar after two years of being absent. The event would prove to be an eventful and challenging rally for the M-Sport team, especially following the highs of Monte Carlo only one month ago.
Fast and tricky conditions in the new Northern event location of Umeå would see the new generation of cars put to the ultimate test on the high speed snow and ice stages for the very first time.
After a weekend filled with ups and downs and tough stage conditions, which he would admit are his most difficult challenge of the season, Gus Greensmith and Swedish co-driver Jonas Andersson would see their confident and solid drive rewarded with a second consecutive fifth overall finish. They now lie fourth in the official drivers’ championship rankings and are the leading M-Sport crew after the first two events of the season.
The weekend would prove a challenge for the M-Sport team, with Craig Breen and Paul Nagle retiring from Friday’s action after getting stuck in a snowbank in the second half of SS2; the only damage being to the crews’ ambitions for the event. Once free from the snow, the car was driven back to service where it was repaired for the Saturday stages.
The second day of competition would see Breen claim his first stage win as an M-Sport driver and simultaneously a first stage win for the Puma Rally1 Hybrid on snow and ice. However, further bad luck would see the car suffer an electrical issue, cutting power after a small bump. The crew would utilise the new Hybrid technology to allow them to drive some of the stages in full Electric mode before pulling over to make bigger repairs. Although they were able to find and fix the fault, they would be over their allotted time limit and forced to retire for the day.
The final day would see Breen drive through the stages preserving his tyres for the all-important power stage where he would take a vital point to go towards his championship tally.
Adrien Fourmaux and Alex Coria always planned to approach the event with caution: experience and completing all the stages being key for them after their big accident during the season-opening round in Monaco. The plan was being followed with a sensible and steady run across the morning stages and the pace being increased over the afternoon second loop. Drama would hit the young French duo on the final stage of Saturday night with a misfire developing during the open kilometres of the stage based on the outskirts of Umeå.
Fourmaux got through the stage and back to service where the M-Sport team serviced the car and return it to Parc Ferme, but unfortunately, on the first road section of the final day of competition, the issue would return and force the duo to retire from the event, an unfortunate result which didn’t reflect the maturity and sensible drive completed up until that time.
Craig Breen said:
“A relatively disappointing weekend for us in Sweden, after the great result in Monte we were looking to build on it again and get some more good points for the championship. Unfortunately, the error we made on Friday put out any hopes of getting a good result, but nonetheless, we improved as the weekend went on; we had a stage win on Saturday which is great, our first stage win in the team.
“We definitely have a lot of things where we can improve for the upcoming events. We’re looking forward to getting our heads down and getting focused on Croatia, which is coming up very soon.”
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