M-Sport Ford World Rally Team drivers Esapekka Lappi and Teemu Suninen will get their first pre-event test since the COVID-19 lockdown as the team plans to head to Belgium ahead of next month’s Ypres Rally.
The British squad had scaled back its testing commitments for this season, but managing director Malcolm Wilson said it was vital for his team to prepare as well as possible for the World Rally Championship’s first visit to Belgium.
“We’ll be testing for at least two days over there,” Wilson told DirtFish.
“Belgium is somewhere new, somewhere we haven’t been before and it’s really important the guys get a good feeling for the car and some of the conditions which we could experience over there. Experience is so important on all rallies, but it’s especially so in a place like Ypres, where things can change so dramatically so quickly.”
Wilson admitted he’s looking forward to the challenge of another new rally this season.
“Everything’s a little bit different this year,” he said, “but this has given the opportunity to events like Estonia and Ypres and, of course, Monza.
“I never competed myself in Ypres, but I think we all know what a challenge it is and I’ve no doubt, Belgium in the late autumn will provide a huge challenge with the conditions. There’s no doubt it’ll be an exciting one in a country which has a huge following and real love of our sport.
“Having said all of that, of course, we’re not blind to what’s going on. The situation with coronavirus is changing on a daily – if not hourly – basis and we will continue to follow government advice from both the British and Belgian authorities. The health and safety of everybody concerned is paramount here.”
While Wilson might not have competed in Ypres, his driving record is pretty impressive in Belgium: two rallies, two podiums, one win.
Wilson and co-driver Terry Harryman won the 1980 Haspengouw in a Ford Escort RS1800 and finished third in a similar car on the European Championship-qualifying Bianchi Rally the following season.
Of M-Sport’s two drivers, only Lappi has previous experience of Ypres but it’s limited to just eight stages after crashing out on SS9 in 2014 with a works Škoda Fabia S2000.