The strong performances of Rally1 refugees Oliver Solberg and Gus Greensmith in WRC2 this season are clear for all to see.
Their respective victories in Sweden and México, and Solberg’s speed on all three World Rally Championship rounds so far, go to prove that the step back to Rally2 was most definitely the right one for their careers.
Even if it wasn’t necessarily their choice!
But Adrien Fourmaux’s case is harder to read.
Like Solberg and ex team-mate Greensmith, Fourmaux has dropped out of Rally1 and into WRC2 in 2023. But unlike the other two who have got their hands on a Toksport Škoda Fabia RS Rally2, Fourmaux has kept ties with his old team (M-Sport) to drive a Fiesta Rally2.
While that may seem a subtle difference, it actually amounts to quite a lot when you consider Fourmaux’s ambitions and objectives for the season.
He’s not driving to prove his worth to the entire service park. He’s driving simply to prove his worth to M-Sport; driving to do what it asks of him.
And so far, Fourmaux’s impressed. Massively.
Go back and read Richard Millener’s words in the story we ran last week. That’s a team principal who’s very clearly happy with what his driver is producing – and Millener’s absolutely right to be.
From a results perspective, Fourmaux’s WRC2 campaign so far doesn’t inspire. A muted fifth on the Monte Carlo Rally – where the Fiesta struggled for pace vs its Škoda and Citroën opposition – followed by seventh in México doesn’t scream of a driver on-form.
But Fourmaux really should have been second last month and lost that position through no fault of his own when the alternator belt came off. His repair job to salvage seventh was extraordinary.
Weirdly, though, the results don’t really matter. Winning the championship would be amazing of course, but what’s of far more importance to Fourmaux is demonstrating calmness and assurance after a turbulent 2022.
And that’s precisely what he’s done.
Fourmaux looks relaxed this year. Naturally, M-Sport’s helped there by placing him in a less pressured environment, but he’s still adapted impeccably.
There were never any signs of frustration or annoyance from Fourmaux when he got the news, he was demoted from the Rally1 program this season. Instead, he’s just got on with the job.
In reality that is all he can do, but not all drivers have the maturity to accept what’s in front of them and the ability to knuckle down and do it.
To me, we’re seeing a very different Fourmaux to what we saw last year where he was perhaps too eager to prove himself too quickly and chased stage times somebody of his experience level was never likely to attain.
This year, there’s no overdriving. No pushing to the absolute max. Just a mature head on young shoulders.
Croatia Rally was the nadir of Fourmaux’s troubled term 12 months ago, when he slid off the road in the tricky conditions and landed in a farmer’s front garden.
The chances of the same thing happening again later this week appear slim. Fourmaux has eradicated the mistakes (his last was that rather unforgivable one in Ypres last August) and escaped the bubble of tension that was engulfing him through most of 2022.
It’s to Fourmaux’s credit that he’s extracted the opportunity from a season that could have been perceived as a pasting. Malcolm Wilson will have wanted to see a different side to Fourmaux this year, and that’s exactly what he’s got so far.
So, while it may not look it from the championship standings, Fourmaux’s doing just as good a job as Solberg and Greensmith this year. Perhaps, in plenty of important ways, an even better job.