M-Sport junior driver Adrien Fourmaux almost had to complete his maiden European Rally Championship victory on foot, after his Ford Fiesta Rally2 struggled to fire up to cross the Canary Islands Rally’s ceremonial finish.
Fourmaux scored victory on his second ERC rally, redeeming himself after crashing out of Rally di Roma to the ire of M-Sport team boss Rich Millener.
Four months on, Fourmaux turned in a measured drive to win, dropping out of the top five only once all rally on his way to victory as his rivals bounced up and down the leaderboard in rapidly changing conditions.
This time his biggest drama only came after all 17 stages had already been completed when his car struggled to fire up – a common occurrence for cars that are still hot after competition.
“We are late because the car didn’t restart before we arrived at the finish,” explained Fourmaux.
“It was stressful but we knew if the car didn’t start we could walk over the finish, but it’s better the car is here.”
While experienced frontrunners including Alexey Lukyanuk and Andreas Mikkelsen made the wrong call on tire strategy during Friday morning, costing both a chance at victory, Fourmaux got his choices right throughout the rally.
Mistakes were also few and far between for the 25-year-old.
Fourmaux aquaplaned off the road on the Saturday morning pass of Galdar but, as he was quick to point out, so too did several of his rivals, and the organizer even eliminated the offending section of road from the second pass.
“I think every driver made a mistake at some point here,” he said.
“We did a mistake on the second stage of the day, it was right at the end of the stage but we were OK and all the drivers went off in the same place.
“Otherwise, all was OK and it’s a great result for M-Sport.
“I hope they will be happy because they did a very good job. I can only say thanks to the team, all was perfect.”
While Fourmaux’s last-minute engine drama posed little trouble, Rally Team Spain’s Pep Bassas found himself disqualified for his own engine woes.
In Bassas’ case, he was trying to limp his Peugeot 208 Rally4 home despite his engine starting to overheat on the final stage.
He did reach the final service at Las Palmas to secure ERC3 victory on the road but Bassas’ decision to turn the car off and try to cool it down at the finish line of the last stage came back to haunt him.
Bassas and co-driver Alex Coronado were later excluded for using a bag of ice cubes in the engine bay, a violation of Article 2.13 of the Regional Rally sporting regulations which prohibits “the use or receipt by the crew of any manufactured materials (solid or liquid)”.
It is the second time in as many years that the ERC3 Junior finale outcome between Rally Team Spain and Orsák Rally Sport has been decided by rally officials.
The 2019 ERC3 Junior finale on Barum Rally Zlín ended in acrimony, as Jean-Baptiste Franceschi was demoted from first to fourth after the finish with a notional time slower than the rest of the drivers in his class, handing Efrén Llarena victory and the title with it.
Franceschi had suffered a puncture on Kašava, which had been red flagged for a serious accident involving Martin Vlček after Franceschi had already entered the stage.
Given his slower split times from the puncture, Franceschi’s stage time was adjusted upwards by one minute after the finish, giving Llarena victory and costing Franceschi’s Orsák team-mate Ken Torn the ERC3 Junior title.
This time around Torn was the beneficiary.
Having already wrapped up the ERC3 and ERC3 Junior titles before the Canary Islands Rally, Torn added a fourth win to his 2020 tally, moving from second to first with Bassas’ exclusion.