M-Sport team principal Richard Millener says Adrien Fourmaux’s Ford Fiesta WRC will not be repairable in time for Saturday’s Ypres Rally stages following his accident on Friday.
Fourmaux had a high-speed off towards the end of the Kemmelberg test, with the rear of the car stepping out through a fast left-hander, pitching the Fiesta into a dramatic, airborne spin.
Millener said the “initial information we got” was that the car was not as badly damaged as it was but upon inspection of the car as it returned to the service park, having already seen spectator videos of the crash, he conceded it could not be fixed in time.
Asked on the World Rally Championship’s All Live service if there was any chance the car might return on Saturday, Millener replied: “No.
“It was difficult to tell from the television when we just had the in-car [camera shots], and to be fair, the initial information we got wasn’t as bad, but as soon as you see the real damage and you see the pictures and the video, there is unfortunately no chance for that one.”
Speaking before the car returned to service, Millener told DirtFish he and M-Sport managing director Malcolm Wilson both expected Fourmaux, who is contesting his fourth top-flight round in a World Rally Car, to have an accident such as his Ypres off “at some point” as he finds his footing.
“You never want it to happen, but I think this is where you start to learn the level of what the top guys are at,” he said.
“You’ve got to be at that level but also be aware of where you can get caught out and make sure you don’t, and it takes a long time to learn that and the pressure on Adrien has grown exponentially the more time he spends in a World Rally Car because he does a good result and everyone jumps on you that you’re progressing very quickly.
"It's a big disappointment, but there is always something to learnAdrien Fourmaux
“Unfortunately it’s [the accident] happened here, but we’ll support him like we do all the other drivers that have these kinds of, these experienced events along the way, and he’ll come back stronger and he’s got to learn from it.”
Describing the accident, Fourmaux reckoned it was down to a mistake on the recce.
“It was just a corner tightening but was still flat, so in my pacenote I put it as a flat corner but there was a bit of dirt, and we just oversteer a bit and then we hit something in the ditch,” he said.
“It’s a big disappointment because I have all my friends, family and all my partners [here]. For sure we know there is a bad part of the sport and sometimes it happens.
“For sure we have to analyze a bit more, but there is always something to learn.”
The disappointment of Fourmaux’s crash was compounded on the following stage when Gus Greensmith beached the sister Fiesta in a bank 200 meters after the start.
“Gus was very unlucky, there was a delay at the start of the stage and it was a couple of corners in, so potentially the tires weren’t as hot as he would’ve hoped by the time he started of that stage and he’s just gone off into a ditch and not been able to get out,” said Millener.
“We’ve seen a lot of people in the ditches, even from the shakedown yesterday and today so far. It’s a very disappointing day for us, but we’ll keep fighting.
“It’s a very slow corner and it’s the second corner into a stage and it’s just very frustrating. Even though the weather’s dry, you can see how damp and wet the bank is in there, so unfortunately no way to get out.”
Greensmith however was adamant that there were no excuses for what happened and the incident was “100% my fault”.
He added: “The corner tightened a lot more at the end to what my pacenote said so it was just a mistake I made on the recce; just too optimistic, too tight and a little bit too much speed and [I] slipped wide into the ditch.
Greensmith retired for the day but will restart on Saturday.
“The only thing we have to do is change the front bumper and go again tomorrow,” he said. “That’s the problem with Ypres, the ditches are pretty deep and once you’re in them it’s hard to get back out.”