M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRCs will jump back into action at next weekend’s Neste Rally Finland – the FIA World Rally Championship returning to its spiritual home after a six-week break in the calendar.
Finnish star Teemu Suninen will be joined by Gus Greensmith and Hayden Paddon – Elfyn Evans having to delay his return to the top-specification Fiesta as he recovers from a back injury sustained at Rally Estonia earlier this month.
Hayden Paddon and John Kennard are making a welcome return to the FIA World Rally Championship next weekend – contesting Rally Finland for the tenth time alongside the team they made their World Rally Car debut with six years ago.
Journeying to Cumbria earlier this week, Paddon was in the workshop – learning everything he needs to know about the Fiesta and reacquainting himself with the team. He and Kennard will next contest a pre-event test on Monday, and have every intention of getting quickly up to speed to challenge for a top result.
“We’re really eager to get underway at Rally Finland. It’s been a long time away, and we’re looking forward to getting back in the car. Everyone at M-Sport has been really accommodating and I’ve been in the workshop this week – getting used to the car and the team before taking to the wheel for the first time at the test on Monday.
“It’s going to be an enjoyable rally, and we need to enjoy it first and foremost,” commented Paddon. “But at the same time we’re not just here to make up the numbers. We want to make the most of the opportunity, and naturally want to be competitive.
“We still need keep our expectations in check – we’ve been out of the game for eight months and that could make it quite hard to bridge the gap. But I’m sure we’ll be able to build our speed as the rally progresses, and if the feeling is there from the start then John and I have the experience and the confidence to be mixing it at the top.
“All of the ingredients for a good rally are there, and we hope to put all the pieces of the puzzle together for a good result next week.”
Suninen contested a two-day test in the lead-up to the event, with Greensmith also making the most of a day’s preparation behind the wheel of the Fiesta. Paddon will experience the power and performance of the top-specification Fiesta for the first time on Monday; and all three crews are geared up to make a big impression on what is one of rallying’s most anticipated weekends.
Team Principal, Richard Millener, said:
“The team are really motivated heading into the second half of the season. We’ve already proven our speed, and now it’s time to bring everything together in pursuit of more podiums as well as that sought-after victory over the next six events.
“We’ve had a productive break with tests in Finland as well as Rally Estonia, and we feel well prepared. The competition will be tough, but we have made some positive steps forward – with new dampers developed specifically for Finland – and we’ve got a good chance of a strong result.
“Obviously it’s a massive shame not to have Elfyn and Scott [Martin, co-driver] with us. Elfyn’s always gone well at this event, but we’ve still got three exciting crews. We wanted to be as competitive as we could be, and that’s why we’ve stuck with a three-car team this weekend.
“It was discussed that Gus would do a second event in the World Rally Car, so we fast-tracked that idea and it will be interesting to see how his pace improves. We’re also really fortunate to have Hayden with us. He’s got loads of experience, great speed and is very determined to do well. He’s spent some time with the engineers and technicians over the past few days, and shown that he’s ready to make the most of the opportunity.
“Speaking of being determined to do well, Teemu is really excited about his home event. I think he found the summer break particularly long, and can’t wait to get back behind the wheel. Like a lot of people, I’m excited to see what he can do – especially coming off the back of a career-best result in Sardinia and with Jarmo [Lehtinen, co-driver] alongside him!”