Gus Greensmith has admitted his first World Rally Championship stage win meant more to him than he had anticipated it would, but believes he has been capable of the feat for some time.
After coming close on a few occasions at Rally Portugal in 2021 and pinpointing a maiden stage victory as a clear pre-season target for 2022, it took Greensmith just seven stages behind the wheel of a Ford Puma Rally1 to achieve it.
Although rally-leading team-mate Sébastien Loeb (who had won all of Friday’s Monte Carlo Rally stages prior to SS7) tackled the second pass of Guillaumes – Péone – Valberg without active use of his 100kW hybrid unit, Greensmith still claimed the scratch time on merit as he outpaced Sébastien Ogier’s Toyota by 1.4 seconds.
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There were emotional scenes as he and co-driver Jonas Andersson found out they had done it on the road section out of the stage, a reaction which Greensmith conceded caught himself off guard.
“[I’m] obviously really happy, the first stage win was one of those things I kind of had on my bucket list of things to achieve before I die and I’ve done one of them now so it feels pretty good, but I didn’t expect it to mean as much to me as it did,” he told DirtFish.
“So when I saw the times and I was like ‘I know this is good’ and I got the splits through for Loeb and was like ‘yeah, we’re going to do it’ and then we did, so yeah it was great.
“But generally the whole day’s been great. This morning we were a little bit more cautious but then again we’re not scoring [manufacturer] points so we can just use this rally as a time to learn, but the times were then still competitive and this afternoon very competitive.”
When it was put to him that this was a genuine stage win in the sense that nobody was backing off, Greensmith agreed that did make it more special but the fact he did it over Loeb meant even more.
“To have my name above… there’s only person I would ask for a picture with and that’s Sébastien,” he said. “So to see my name above his is kind of a weird thing but really cool at the same time.”
While Greensmith’s stage win may have come as a surprise to some, the M-Sport driver refutes that as he thinks the performances he and team-mate Adrien Fourmaux put in last year in an underdeveloped Fiesta WRC flew under the radar.
“I would say me and Adrien felt the same last year that a lot of the time we didn’t get the credit for exactly what level we were on,” he explained.
“So I don’t think much has changed, you just have to look at where me and Adrien were, we were the same, always close together, so I think it’s just now the fact we’ve got a good car and we’re making the most of it.”
Greensmith heads into leg three of the Monte on Saturday in seventh position, 9.2s down on Ott Tänak’s Hyundai, but was fourth overall and 0.7s ahead of team-mate Craig Breen before losing hybrid boost himself on the final stage of Friday morning.
The target wasn't to set the world alight on one single stage it was just to be consistent and whatever extra we got was a bonusGus Greensmith
“We only really fell down the positions because of the problems so I think we would have maybe not over the day kept ahead of Thierry [Neuville], but I think we would have been with or ahead of Ott and Craig,” Greensmith said.
“We know that we have the pace tomorrow to go and fight with Craig and to go and fight with Ott, [but] the objective this weekend was to have a good, consistent start to the year it wasn’t to set the world alight on one single stage it was just to be consistent and whatever extra we got was a bonus.”
What a sweet bonus it was though; one that Greensmith’s father, Charles, was particularly enthused by. Just what was said in that text Greensmith referenced at the end of the succeeding stage?
“You f****** beauty,” he revealed.
“I won’t say what his second text said because he’ll probably shout at me! I think he was fairly emotional.”