Gus Greensmith will contest a full World Rally Championship program with the M-Sport Ford team this season, with a sister factory Fiesta WRC to be shared by Teemu Suninen and Adrien Fourmaux.
With last year’s team leader Esapekka Lappi already having ruled himself out of a return to the squad, M-Sport has given the nod to a younger line-up for 2021.
The selection reflects the commercial realities of the world championship and leaves the 2017 manufacturers’ champion without a world rally-winning driver in its line-up for the first time since 2015.
In addition to sharing a Fiesta WRC with Suninen, Fourmaux will also contest a full WRC2 schedule in a Fiesta Rally2.
Team principal Richard Millener said: “M-Sport has a long history of supporting young drivers – it’s something that remains very close to Malcolm’s [Wilson, M-Sport managing director] heart and we remain committed to Teemu, Gus and Adrien as they continue their development in 2021.
“All three have a lot of talent, and we’ve devised programs to bring out the best in each driver while enabling further progression at the various stages of their careers.”
The team has so far announced that Greensmith and Suninen will contest the season-opening Monte Carlo Rally later this month.
Millener urged Greensmith – who missed Rally Sweden in 2020 – to learn from his first complete campaign in 2021, adding: “Gus delivered some impressive split and stage times last year, and it’s now time for him to develop those skills further.
“We’re delighted to offer him his first full season with the top-specification Fiesta, and want to see him and Elliott [Edmondson, co-driver] take maximum experience from a full rally and test program – learning not only the rallies, but the intricacies of set-up, engineering and everything that goes into becoming a world-class driver.”
Greensmith, who scored points three times in 2020, said the deal was a dream come true.
“I’m really proud to represent M-Sport Ford and incredibly grateful for the opportunity of a full season in the World Rally Championship,” he said.
“This has been my dream since I was a boy, and I’m really looking forward to getting started.
“Last year gave us a taster of what to expect, and now we’re ready to throw everything into this season and really focus on progressing throughout year – not only in terms of my driving, but in terms of everything that goes into making a successful career in the FIA World Rally Championship.”
If M-Sport is to lift a win from the season ahead, it’s most likely going to come from Suninen – but he will be doing it without co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen, who has left the team after 18 months.
“We all know that Teemu has the speed,” said Millener, “it’s something we saw on his very first outing with the Ford Fiesta WRC and we felt it important to find a way for him to continue with us this year.
“We’ve managed to create a partial WRC program for him, and will target specific events where he and the Fiesta can be competitive.
“It’s a shame to have lost Jarmo, but Teemu learnt a lot from the short time they spent together and I’m sure he’ll put that to good use this year.
“Adrien also really impressed us last year, and we’re delighted to offer him another full WRC2 program with the Ford Fiesta Rally2 as well as some further outings with the Fiesta WRC.
“We want to ensure he gets to experience as many rallies as possible – continuing to showcase the performance of the Fiesta Rally2 but also starting to pit himself against the world’s best.”
Fourmaux, pictured above in a Fiesta WRC on Rallylegend, said: “It’s a new season with a new goal, but one with another fantastic opportunity for me. I want to thank Malcolm, Rich and the whole team for the opportunity and intend to make the most of all the experience I’m set to gain this year.
“I’m looking forward to pushing for the top results in the WRC2 category. We got really close to victory quite a few times last year, and believe we have everything we need to succeed this season.
“And of course I’m looking forward to some outings with the world rally car – to experience competition at this level and better understand every element that goes into reaching the very top of the sport.”
Suninen was similarly pleased to have a seat – albeit not a full-time one – at world rallying’s top table.
“It’s great to be back in the Fiesta WRC this year,” he said.
“We all know how difficult times are at the moment, and I want to thank the team for their continued support and opportunity to show what I can do this year.
“We’ll have to wait and see how many rallies I can do, but I will work hard to do my best and deliver good results at every event.”
We have to be honest and say the COVID-19 situation has made things extremely difficult for us, but we hope there is light at the end of the tunnelM-Sport team principal Richard Millener
Millener added that he would try to extend Suninen’s program in the car and said that there would be room for further “top-level” drivers in the squad.
Three-time world rally winner Andreas Mikkelsen will be near the top of that list. The Norwegian held protracted discussions with M-Sport, but as yet common ground hasn’t be found.
Millener acknowledged the ongoing coronavirus situation had “made things extremely difficult for us” but added that the team hoped “there is light at the end of the tunnel”.
“I know that every single member of the team will continue to give their best as we push for the best possible results in 2021,” he said.