Gus Greensmith will make a decision on who his next World Rally Championship co-driver will be on Monday or Tuesday as Chris Patterson heads back into retirement.
Despite not competing since 2018, Patterson joined Greensmith in his M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC from the Croatia Rally onwards in 2021 and has been credited for inspiring an upturn in Greensmith’s form.
But his return was only ever intended to be for one year only, and in the lead-up to last week’s Rally Spain it was announced that Patterson would not compete on the season-ending Monza Rally to give Greensmith a chance to adjust to his new navigator.
Although it hasn’t been officially announced, Greensmith is expected to drive for M-Sport once more in 2022.
“I would say the past eight months has probably been the most I’ve learned since I’ve been rallying, and I would put a lot of that down to Chris,” Greensmith told DirtFish of Patterson’s contribution.
“It’s genuinely been nothing but a privilege, not for him to sit alongside me, but for me to sit alongside him and learn. Every single day was a learning day, and he’s an absolutely remarkable man and a really good friend.”
Patterson is a vastly experienced WRC co-driver, sitting alongside the likes of Petter Solberg, Kris Meeke and Khalid Al Qassimi over the years. He turns 54 next year, and although he won’t be calling the notes for Greensmith anymore he is likely to still be helping him out.
“I think so, yeah,” said Greensmith when asked if Patterson would remain part of his camp.
“For the short term obviously with the co-driver change, Chris is as keen as I am to make it work, to make it a positive step going forward.
“So Chris will still [be] involved for the short term, for sure. The long-term, we’ll see. If things go well with the co-driver and we’re getting what I want, then obviously Chris can go and enjoy a full retirement.”
Quizzed who his new navigator will be, Greensmith said “we have a couple kind of in the frame” but he “wanted to wait for as long” as he could because he was “secretly” thinking Patterson might change his mind.
“But no, no, we’re at that point now where I’ve got to make a decision, and I’ll make that decision tomorrow [Monday] or Tuesday,” Greensmith added.
Every available co-driver that we’ve looked at is more than capable of being in a WRC car, so it’s just deciding who’s the right fit as a character for me going forwardGus Greensmith
Whoever joins Greensmith will be his fourth navigator of the season after he started out with Elliott Edmondson. Edmondson has since partnered with Andreas Mikkelsen, and recently told DirtFish the decision by Greensmith’s camp to let Edmondson go ” wasn’t an actual performance thing, it was [about] managing Gus’s character.”
Greensmith supported that statement when asked what his parameters were in choosing a new co-driver.
“I think the main thing is we’ve seen this year [is] that for me we click personality-wise. That’s kind of the key for me. That’s the aim of this one.
“Every available co-driver that we’ve looked at is more than capable of being in a WRC car, so it’s just deciding who’s the right fit as a character for me going forward.”
Aaron Johnston is a firm favorite for the seat given he is close with Patterson and currently isn’t tied down to a contract, despite contesting the last two WRC events with Takamoto Katsuta.
Stuart Loudon is another possibility given he deputized for Patterson when he was absent for personal reasons in Italy, has sat in on tests with Greensmith and is part of his on-event gravel crew.
But Loudon has a schedule clash with the Monza Rally, competing on the Ulster Rally – the final round of this season’s British Rally Championship – with M-Sport test driver and director Matthew Wilson which theoretically rules him out.
Katsuta however believes he has a “good, bright future” with Johnston, who began this season co-driving for Oliver Solberg.
“Let’s say I’m not sure yet what will happen, but I’m quite sure Aaron will do a very good job, no problem. I have no questions,” Katsuta said when asked by DirtFish if he and Johnston have a long term partnership.
“And of course Dan [Barritt], I have been with him a long time, like I’m very happy with both of them. I want to continue if I can with both of them. But only one co-driver, and I need to choose, but in the future Aaron is still very young and we can make a good relationship now, and for the future it would be nice.
“In the beginning, of course we were not sure of timing and reading and even small pronunciation of something, it’s affecting me a bit [listening]. But at end of this rally [Spain] I felt very comfortable with Aaron,” Katsuta added.
“So for sure if I stay very honest, before this rally of course Dan was more comfortable. But [at the] end of this rally I feel very comfortable with Aaron, so I can see we have a very good, bright future.”