M-Sport's Ford Fiesta S2000 on song in Sweden
Rally Sweden proved to be another highly successful event for M-Sport's new Ford Fiesta S2000 as three finished in the top four places of the S-WRC category and the car scored an overall WRC stage win for the first time.
of the new generation rally cars were in action at the opening round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Bernardo Sousa and Andreas Mikkelsen entered with Fiestas prepared by M-Sport, while Martin Prokop and Janne Tuohino were run by their own private teams.
Sousa, Prokop and Tuohino were all registered to score points in the new S-WRC category for S2000 specification cars, and with the new car having taken victory in its competitive debut in Monte Carlo and Qatar, plus ex-Ford WRC driver Marcus Gronholm
having completed 230km of set-up in the Fiesta prior to Sweden, all were confident of putting in a strong performance on the snow-bound stages.
Day one saw the Fiesta S2000s
fighting at the front of the S-WRC category. Janne Tuohino was chasing the early leader P-G Andersson from the off, but was trying to measure his driving rather than going flat out and risking a mistake. Andreas Mikkelsen followed closely behind Tuohino and looked strong throughout the day. Reigning Junior World Rally Champion Prokop was around 20seconds further back after a relatively incident-free drive, but Sousa didn't have it all his own way after hitting a snow bank and losing his light pod.
The second day of the event was action-packed. Mikkelsen started to get to grips with the conditions and mounted a charge on the first stage of the day that saw him overhaul Tuohino to go second of the S2000 cars in the overall standings. Prokop continued steadily throughout the day but then put a real marker down as he recorded the fastest time on the short SS16 Hagfors Sprint -- beating every other car in the field to take an overall stage win and a create a new first for both the S2000 class and the Ford Fiesta S2000. In another stunning performance Sousa recorded the second-fastest time on the same stage, while Tuohino was fourth and Mikkelsen eighth. That meant four Fiesta S2000s in the top eight overall stage times, a fantastic effort against the more powerful WRC-spec cars.
On the final day of the rally all of the Fiesta S2000 drivers reported themselves happy with the way the car was performing and continued to enjoy a smooth run towards the finish. Andreas Mikkelsen hit a blip when a cable that helps to select reverse gear came loose after SS18 Varmullsasen and he was late leaving service, costing him a ten-second penalty. However, the rest of the Fiesta S2000 crews enjoyed a smooth final loop of stages to bring home a clutch of outstanding results from the supremely tough Rally Sweden. Andreas Mikkelsen said:
"It has gone very well. We only had a short test before the rally so everything still felt new when we started and we had to learn as we went along. It felt good all the way though, and there was a lot more grip than I expected in these conditions. The tyres did a very good job and we didn't lose many studs. The rally was difficult but everything went fine for us. I think the season ahead will be very good for us in this car." Janne Tuohino said:
"The stages were hard because the first loop was always nice but the second was very hard on the tyres. The car has been very strong but maybe we need a little more time to learn how to use it better. We lost too much time on Friday so since then it has really been focusing on developing our feeling with the car. In a few more events we will be very fast." Martin Prokop said:
"This rally has been nearly perfect, we have had no problems at all. The car was really special all the way. We didn't do anything special in terms of our driving so to get the stage win on Saturday was great. It was hard to fight with the others in front because they have a better understanding of these conditions. The rest of the year we will be more confident back on gravel and it is a big opportunity for us to do something really good." Bernardo Sousa said:
"It's been an unbelievable event for me. I don't have much experience of winter rallies but I have really enjoyed every minute. It's always so different driving in these conditions. The only problem we had was a small thing with the intercom on the last day, everything else was great. The pace of the competition was very high, which is good, but we know we are here to pick up experience and would not really be able to fight to win. On the gravel and tarmac events I think we can go really well this season in this car." M-Sport Managing Director Malcolm Wilson said:
"I'm delighted with the Fiesta S2000's WRC debut. At some point every Fiesta driver has put in a great performance and to achieve a fastest overall stage time on its debut was just remarkable. All four Ford Fiesta crews have had no major problems and it demonstrates that we found both the performance and reliability with this new car. Andreas drove very well and it was great to see Janne Tuohino top of the registered SWRC crews in his Fiesta."