Last weekend, M-Sport’s R5 driver Adrien Fourmaux was at rock bottom. Instead of reaching the end of Rally di Roma’s second stage, his Ford Fiesta R5 Mk2 was sat stationary with its wheels pointing towards the sky.
“We came here to show what the car was capable of and we’re not going to get a chance to set a single time,” Rich Millener said.
“Although I understand it’s a very fine line between bringing the car to the finish and pushing to be competitive, we needed Adrien to find that balance. He hasn’t and now we have a car that’s destroyed.”
Thankfully it was just Fourmaux and co-driver Renaud Jamoul’s pride that was hurting, but there was no escaping the fact that this was an extremely large bump – again, quite literally – back to reality after the coronavirus-enforced lockdown.
Fourmaux’s form had been strong before COVID-19. A WRC2 driver winning a UK national round might not sound like much of an achievement, but the manner in which Fourmaux took to the north English forests he had never seen – let alone driven on – before the weekend was deeply impressive.
That, coupled with his strong asphalt form both in his native France and in WRC2, prompted this writer to jot Fourmaux down as a victory favorite in Rome.
I got it wrong, but you can’t get them all right. Fourmaux knows that too, so instead of dwelling too hard on what he describes as “the big package” of reasons that wrecked his Rally di Roma, Fourmaux’s eyes are firmly fixed on the future and avoiding a similar mistake again.
“Honestly it’s a really bad disappointment for everybody: for the team, for me, it’s never a good one [to have an accident] but this one especially [is bad],” Fourmaux told DirtFish.
“Trust me we are working hard to improve and I want to be sure that I will not make any mistake like that [again].”
But what does he need to work on? What exactly went wrong?
“It was a small mistake with a big impact sadly,” Fourmaux explained.
“I was maybe using too much [of] the road during this rally. With these white parts [covering the apex], I couldn’t really see the corner and it’s not a cut but it’s the line, so I turned just after these white parts and there was a block on the bottom of the wall.
“We touched the wheel from maybe three centimeters [too close], not more, but it broke a part of the suspension at the front-right wheel and after that the car was out of control so [it] finishes way down the mountain after we roll. We don’t really roll one full roll, it was just a half, but we were sliding a long time on the top [the roof].
“Honestly I think it’s a big package [of things],” he added when asked what specifically caused the accident.
“I didn’t drive [for] four months. To understand the pace in the stage, you need to drive, you need to have this feeling and you need it to become a habit because after four months it’s not really easy but it’s like that. Sometimes it doesn’t happen like you want.
“It was really challenging because they were very narrow stages and when it’s the first time for you on these stages, you need to have really good confidence to be able to push more than the other drivers.
“Most of them knew the stages, it wasn’t their first time they did these stages so [for us] it was really challenging to get back in the car, to have the good pacenotes after the four months [out] on these really tricky, narrow stages. That was a big challenge for me.”
It wasn’t just stage two where things went pear-shaped for Fourmaux though. Three miles from the end of the opening stage – famed for its fearsome reputation – his Fiesta R5 punctured after clipping a rather innocuous looking stone in a cut. While the time loss was far from ideal, the mental impact it had was far worse.
“It was just a rock in the cut and it was just a little rock and we touched this with, I think the same 3-4 centimeters [of the wheel] in the cut,” Fourmaux rued. “We drive on and that’s it, I didn’t hit something [big].
“[But] I think the accident starts with that first puncture for sure because it was so frustrating after the first stage to have the puncture.”
Whether Fourmaux was unlucky, out of practice or guilty of making a small error on the recce is, ultimately, not the key here however. While it’s important he recognizes the nature of his mistake, it’s more important that he bounces back accordingly and doesn’t let a bad weekend take control of him.
When DirtFish put this to him, Fourmaux said: “That’s a good question for sure. I would say when you make a mistake, you have to go ahead after it but it’s not forgotten, you have to understand. You have to try to not to make the same mistake again but you have to go ahead.
“For sure I think you have to take the confidence in the first loop [of the next rally], you have to be a little bit down on your pace but after you have to get back enough soon, because if you are waiting too much, maybe you will not find your pace, so you have to be back as soon as possible to your pace.”
The likelihood of a repeat error happening is minimal, judging by how the affable Frenchman has gone about his rallying in his short career. This is only the 25-year-old’s fourth year behind the wheel of a rally car.
In just a matter of weeks we’ll have a definitive answer. Will we see a mature drive from Fourmaux when he’s next out? Let’s hope he doesn’t prove me wrong for a second time in succession.