The M Sport Ford WRC team have announced that they will field three Ford Fiesta WRC EccoBoost cars for the 2019 FIA World Rally Championship season ending Rally Australia with Teemu Suninen and Elfyn Evans joined by Hayden Paddon.
Speaking ahead of the rally M Sport team principal Richard Millener said:
I think we can be really proud of what we’ve achieved this year. A lot of people discounted us at the start of the season, but we knew what we were capable of – and four events in we’d had two drivers lead rallies, won stages on gravel, asphalt and snow, secured two podiums, and came so close to victory in Corsica.
“But I have to admit, the fact that we’ve not managed to secure a win this year does niggle away at the back of my mind. And now, we have one last chance to see if we can make it happen. We’ve done well here in the past, and the lads have been working extremely hard on developing our performance on gravel.
“I believe we have the pace, and I believe we have three drivers capable of delivering. Elfyn is in the form of his life, Teemu is really coming into his own, and Hayden is a proven winner with so much support in this part of the world. I see no reason why we can’t aim high, and that’s exactly what we plan to do next week.”
Elfyn Evans commented saying:
We go to Australia with the aim of securing a strong result and fourth place in the championship. We’ve had a fairly strong season, and we definitely want to end the year on a high by challenging for the best possible result.
“Australia hasn’t been particularly kind to me in the past, but I really enjoy these stages so let’s see what we can do.
“Visibility is often the biggest challenge with low sun and hanging dust. You need to maintain your focus and have total confidence in your notes to keep the speed up – and that’s what we intend to do.
“I’m really looking forward to this rally, and hope to secure my best result on Australian soil.”
Teemu Suninen will be looking for redemption having retired from this event last year and speaking about the event this year he said:
This is only my second time at Rally Australia, but I’m really looking forward to it and with Jarmo next to me there’ll be a lot of good experience in the car. I really like the roads here, and the rally route is pretty much the same as last year which is good.
“There’s a real mix of stages, but the main challenge comes with the changing light as we quickly go from being under the trees to out in the open and vice versa. Sometimes that can make it hard to read the road ahead – so you have to be really focused and have complete trust in your notes.
“There’s still a big battle between the three Finns in the championship, and of course I would like to do well there. I go into this event with a relaxed mind, and hope to push for a strong result.”
In eight previous starts here, Hayden Paddon’s best result came last year when he finished second and he will be hoping for a similar performance this year.
This feels like such a long time coming, and I’m really excited about getting back into action with a world rally car. The key will be to stay relaxed. In this situation it would be so easy to put too much pressure on myself, but I know from past situations that that doesn’t work.
“I’ve always enjoyed this rally and I think it’s the event I have the strongest record on. The second day’s stages are quite similar to those we have in New Zealand, and although the others are a little different I really do enjoy them all.
“The biggest challenge is the fact that I have been out of competition for the past 12 months. I know we can do a good job, but the unknown factor is at what level everyone else has increased since we’ve been away – so the goal is just to enjoy ourselves and do the best rally we can.
“I’m a competitive person and will be pushing for a good result, but it would be unfair to put pressure on myself when it comes to securing a specific result – it’s just a case of taking it one step at a time.
“Finally, I would like to say a huge thanks to the many people from New Zealand who have continued to support us and who have made this event possible; a massive thank you to everyone, including our new sponsor Bailey Caravans NZ.
The M Sport Ford WRC team will end the season in fourth place behind champions Hyundai, second placed Toyota Gazoo Racing and Citroen Racing.