Gus Greensmith believes he “realistically could’ve been fourth” on Rally Portugal without his puncture and throttle issues but confessed he “didn’t expect” his pace to have improved so quickly since changing co-drivers in March.
Greensmith equaled his best ever World Rally Championship finish of fifth in Portugal but the pace he displayed marked it out as his most impressive start in a World Rally Car to date.
The M-Sport driver was joint third-fastest, just 0.5 seconds shy of stage winner Ott Tänak, on the event’s first test and would set a top-three stage time on another five of the event’s 20 stages.
He was just 10.8s from the lead before picking up a puncture on Friday, and then an intermittent throttle problem pegged him back further on Saturday and restricted him to fifth.
When it was put to him by DirtFish that this was without question his best performance in the WRC, Greensmith said: “Yeah I would agree there. Without a puncture and without some of the issues I think we could’ve realistically been fourth.
“The podium was a step too far away but going from where we were at the start of the year, this is a big step forward so I can only be happy.”
Greensmith’s season began with a very distant eighth on the Monte Carlo Rally and an anonymous ninth on Arctic Rally Finland.
But since ending his partnership with Elliott Edmondson and securing the services and experience of Chris Patterson for Rally Croatia, M-Sport has noticed an upturn in both Greensmith’s pace and assurance behind the wheel.
Greensmith thinks his improved form is down to “a combination of things” but agrees “the obvious one is the introduction of Chris to the car”.
“This is the exact reason we wanted him here but even I didn’t expect it to be improving this quickly,” he said. “Clearly he’s unlocking something inside me so that’s good.
“He’s making a big difference and we’ve worked pretty much every day, we’re on the phone for a good hour discussing things, going through things so it’s been a lot of hard work but to be honest [but] even I didn’t expect the progression from where I was to where I am to be so quick.
“It’s just flowing so nicely, I’m just enjoying myself driving, not particularly stressed. Like I was getting frustrated because I just wasn’t getting the results but I was putting in the work but clearly I was putting in the wrong kind of work.
“And with Chris, he’s shown me what needs to be done and the times are just coming now, easily.”
Some of the things Patterson has worked on with Greensmith include his pacenotes, specifically removing some of the detail “so you’re not going to lose a tenth by thinking about them, you’re just going to drive to them.”
Greensmith has also grown in confidence with testing, and he feels improvements he made to the Fiesta WRC helped bring the car to his liking for Portugal.
“I’ve always studied a lot of onboards: the fastest, my team-mates and my driving and there was kind of a recurring theme of how to be quick in Portugal,” he explained.
“So I said to my engineers “this is the way I want to take the car,” so I had to take a little bit of control over the direction the car would go for the rally but I feel like it’s been the exact right step. We’re a lot closer now than we have been this year.”
The fact it was on Rally Portugal, Greensmith’s favorite WRC event, could have played a factor in his new-found speed, but Greensmith insisted “the difference is not where I am, it’s who’s giving me this input.”
The target now is the same again on next week’s Rally Italy.
“We just need to be in the top five consistently,” he said.
“[Last] weekend I think we would have been in the top five without problems regardless just based on pace, so we just need to carry on with that really. Top five’s a good place to be I think given where we are.”