M-Sport team principal Richard Millener says Adrien Fourmaux displayed traits similar to seven-time world champion Sébastien Ogier on his top-flight World Rally Car debut on Rally Croatia.
Fourmaux finished fifth in his Ford Fiesta WRC – the best result for a driver making their debut in the World Rally Championship’s top class with the team – and set top-five times on nine of the rally’s 20 stages.
He and co-driver Renaud Jamoul lost a minute with a trip into a bank on Sunday morning, their only noteworthy error of the weekend, before recording the fifth- and sixth-fastest times on the respective final two stages.
Millener said that response was part of what made Fourmaux’s rally a “mightily impressive” performance.
“Four years ago he hadn’t even driven a rally car – and now he’s challenging, and on some stages out-performing, the guys he grew up watching!” said Millener.
“We saw Adrien’s potential very early on, but I think he surpassed even his own expectations this weekend. He and Renaud work so well together and there’s an awareness of everything they do.
“They know when to push and where to be more cautious; and even when they made a mistake this morning, there was no panic or stress – they just picked themselves up and got straight back on the pace.
“It’s been a very impressive debut, and you can certainly see a resemblance to Ogier in the way he conducts himself.
“The future of the sport is looking pretty good, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how he progresses with more time in the car.”
Fourmaux set himself the pre-event target of recording up to three top-five stage times but had achieved that by the end of the first stage of the day on Saturday, where he was two seconds slower than Ogier.
The eventual rally winner said pre-weekend that it would be “interesting to see” how Fourmaux, who like Ogier is a graduate of the Rallye Jeunes program in France, performed, and told DirtFish after the event that his compatriot should be pleased with what he had achieved.
“We’ve seen some great times from both [Hyundai and M-Sport], even the Ford, we haven’t seen at the front for a while,” said Ogier.
“But Adrien was doing some great times this weekend. First time in a World Rally Car [in the WRC], he can be quite proud of what he’s done.”
Fourmaux said on Sunday that his only disappointment was “that the rally is now over”.
“It’s been a big challenge on the Croatian roads but I have enjoyed every kilometer; and taken a lot of pleasure from driving this car on these stages!” he said.
“We showed good speed throughout the weekend and honestly there were more positives than we had been expecting.
“We improved our pace a lot and I achieved all of my goals and more.”