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M-Sport answered critics with WRC Monte performance

M-Sport boss Richard Millener says his team’s performance at the World Rally Championship season opener in Monte Carlo answered critics that had written off its chances this year.

Grégoire Munster, Louis Louka, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1

Photo by: M-Sport

The Ford squad has opted to promote its Rally2 drivers Adrien Fourmaux and Gregoire Munster to its Rally1 programme for 2024, following Ott Tanak’s decision to leave the organisation to re-join Hyundai.

Fourmaux and Munster impressed across Monte Carlo’s 17 tricky asphalt stages last weekend as both set a top-three stage time.

Fourmaux produced an impressive drive to bag 11 points, only two shy of his entire season total during his first Rally1 campaign in 2022.

The Frenchman finished fifth overall [+3m36.9s] and was fifth fastest across Sunday's stages, ahead of factory drivers Takamoto Katsuta (Toyota) and Andreas Mikkelsen (Hyundai).

Munster was also on course to finish sixth overall before a small error on Saturday left his Ford Puma beached at the side of the road. He rejoined the rally on Sunday to claim a solitary point after finishing seventh in the ‘Super Sunday’ classification.

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“We came here with a clear goal of getting both cars to the finish, to gain experience with the drivers and to show that we can be competitive this year,” said Millener.

“I firmly believe we achieved all of this. Both crews each scored a third-fastest time and drove sensibly over what was still a tricky Monte Carlo Rally.

“I am really pleased for both of them, and also the team who, as ever, worked very hard to get us here and gave us two perfectly reliable cars.

Adrien Fourmaux, Alexandre Coria, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1

Photo by: M-Sport

Adrien Fourmaux, Alexandre Coria, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1

“I think the big positive is, it goes to show the people that were kind of writing us off at the start that we are still there [fighting at front].

“We are going to have to pick and choose, we are not going to be competitive on every rally, but we definitely are going to have opportunities for podiums and getting in the way of the championship fight.”

Fourmaux also believes his performance over the rally proved a point, showcasing that he has matured as a driver.

“I am really pleased with what we have done,” Fourmaux told Autosport. “The goal was for fifth and we achieved that.

“I think we managed the rally well and we are the first crew behind the four top guys. And behind us is Andreas and Takamoto who are really experienced.

“This is what I learnt from last year. Okay we are missing some pace, but it is a work in progress. We are taking 11 points; it is more than if we finished fifth last year. It is positive.

“Some people had doubts about us fighting at the front. Okay we are not fighting for the win, but we were just behind.

“We are competitive and I think it will give some support to the fans, so this is good.”

Munster added: “The goal was just to get experience on this tricky rally in Monte-Carlo, and I think we managed to do that.

Grégoire Munster, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

Grégoire Munster, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team

“Unfortunately, we had to retire on Saturday and restart, but I think we grabbed a lot of experience and showed great pace.

“Thanks to the route note crews and weather crews, we managed to get a third-fastest time, which is our best result so far on a WRC stage.

“We also managed to be within 0.5s/km of Thierry [Neuville] on Saturday morning, while he was the fastest car on the loop, which was a real positive.

“We grabbed our first point in WRC, we could have achieved more without the mistake on Saturday, but still great learning and thanks to the team the car was working perfectly throughout the weekend.”

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