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FIESTA R5 PREVIEW QUOTES: 2017 RALLY DE ESPAÑA

M-Sport will field six Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta R5s at next weekend’s RallyRACC Catalunya – Rally de España, three of which will compete in the WRC 2 category. Here’s what they had to say ahead of the FIA World Rally Championship’s only mixed-surface event.

Teemu Suninen (WRC 2) said:

“Rally Spain is always an interesting rally with the two different surfaces. We start on gravel, and then all the suspension and gearbox will be changed to Tarmac spec for the next day and a half. It’s not an easy rally in that sense – for both the drivers and the mechanics as the car will be totally different.

“We need to be ready and fully focused for the first day on both surfaces so that we can deliver some strong times straight away. Good points are my main goal as there is still a good chance of clinching silver in the WRC 2 Championship.”

Éric Camilli said:

“With its mix of gravel and asphalt, Rally Spain is really unique. It’s an event that I enjoy and the Tarmac stages are especially nice to drive – it’s as close to a race circuit as we get and it really is a pleasure to drive flat-out on those roads.

“The transition from gravel to Tarmac means that you have to be fully focused and quickly adapt your driving style to be fully up to speed. We’ve delivered some strong performances on both surfaces in recent rallies, so I hope that we can challenge for a top result.”

Gus Greensmith (WRC 2) said:

“I made sure that I gave myself some time to relax during the break. I’ve been working to find a better balance between my rally life and my life at home. That’s really helped me to clear my mind and I’m feeling fully refreshed and focused for the next event.

“I also spent a week in the workshop with the M-Sport lads which was really useful as I now have a better understanding of the technical side.

“The biggest challenge in Spain is always adapting to the change from gravel to Tarmac. It’s a challenge to get into the swing of it straight away, but I’m looking forward to it – and especially to the gravel stages on Friday. I’ll definitely be bringing my A-game to Spain and we’re planning on going for it.”

Pierre-Louis Loubet said:

“It’s been a long break since Germany and I’ve been doing a lot of physical training with a lot of running. I also spent a few days at the workshop at M-Sport – working on my car and improving my mechanical knowledge.

“Rally Spain is a great event and I’m looking forward to it. You need to perform strongly on both surfaces, but for me the Tarmac in Spain is really amazing. We plan to give it everything through both surfaces, and hope to finish with the best possible position.”

Jon Armstrong (WRC 2) said:

"Since Germany, I’ve not had a lot of seat time but did manage to get a couple of gravel kilometre with the Fiesta R5 thanks to Enda McCormack. Apart from that, my preparation has involved spending a lot of time in the gym as well as using the simulator and doing some homework on the stages.

“This event is really unique with one day on gravel before switching straight to Tarmac. This is probably the biggest challenge as you have to flick the reset button overnight which some drivers do better than others.

“The gravel can be rough in places, especially if there is rain, so I hope it stays dry. The other challenge is making your Pacenotes for the wide Spanish Tarmac. It can be a tricky one to get right so I’ll be making sure that I get a good feel for the road on the recce.

“I think we showed some good speed in Germany, and I will be looking to turn that into more consistent pace next week. We won the DDFT round in Spain last year, so I’m pretty confident about the stages and can’t wait to attack them with the Fiesta R5.

“The top-three in WRC 2 is possible, but we’ll have to deliver a clean and consistent run throughout the weekend if we want to achieve that goal.”

Max Vatanen said:

“It’s been a long break for me since Rally Finland, so I am very happy to be back behind the steering wheel. In addition to the normal fitness training and studying of the on-board video, we’ll also get a feel for the Spanish Tarmac with a pre-event test on Monday – something which will be a big help in our preparations.

“Friday’s gravel stages are tough – especially the long Terra Alta stage where you need to be very alert. Over the weekend, we switch to smooth asphalt stages where the sensations and driving is completely different. You need to be able to adapt quickly as this is the only round where we get to tackle both surfaces.

“My goal is to enjoy the Spanish experience and deliver a committed drive with progress over the course of the weekend.”