No rally driver ever wants to crash. If they crash, they aren’t winning – and every rally driver wants to win.
Adrien Fourmaux would be the first to concede that he needs to build up some more World Rally Championship experience before he starts winning, but he can’t necessarily do that by crashing.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened to the M-Sport driver on the third stage of Monza Rally. But actually, despite ending his day resting on an Armco barrier – perilously close to a far nastier slide down a stage-side bank – there are plenty of positives for Fourmaux to draw.
On just his eighth start in a World Rally Car at this level, Fourmaux went against the grain on Friday morning, selecting a package of four soft and two hard compound Pirellis while all of his rivals chose full hards.
M-Sport team principal Richard Millener confirmed that this was Fourmaux’s personal choice – and questioned whether it was a gamble that was worth taking.
As did Fourmaux when he reached the end of the first stage and hadn’t set a time as competitive as he had hoped. The stages, twisting around the mountains near Bergamo, were damp but didn’t play to the softer rubber like Fourmaux had anticipated.
In a bid to resurrect that issue, Fourmaux bolted his two hard compound tires onto his Ford Fiesta WRC for the repeat pass of stages but this created a new learning experience for him altogether, running with soft tires on the front-right and rear-left and hard tires on the front-left and rear-right.
For sure it was a really good lesson for meAdrien Fourmaux
“It was the wrong tire choice this morning so I tried to save a bit of time [loss] on this one [SS3] and cross the tires but it was definitely not the correct tire choice because I was overheating the soft,” Fourmaux explained.
“The hard gave me the precision, but I was just a bit too wide with the softs on the front and yeah, we hit the bank.
“The best choice was with four hards, definitely,” he reiterated.
“The car was moving a lot when we were crossing. It was for me front-left, rear-right so all the right corners the car was precise and reaction and the left was slow. In this one [where we crashed], the car was slow.”
The damage was slight as Fourmaux managed to drive the car back to service at Monza once it had been lifted back onto the road, but clearly it was not an ideal way for his rally to end.
And yet, there was still plenty for Fourmaux to learn. While the outcome was unfavorable to say the least, the experiment was worthwhile.
“For sure it was a really good lesson for me to try the tires and for the future it’s the best,” Fourmaux said.
“OK it’s a shame that there’s damage on the car but at least I know now how it goes with the tires crossed and with this condition also.
“I tried the soft, I was sure that on the damp we will make a [time] gap but it showed that the gap between the soft and the hard was not so big on a damp condition, but on the dry it’s a big step definitely.”
When Fourmaux has minimal to fight for in 2021 – a learning year for him and a stop-gap season for M-Sport – trial and error can be forgiven. You could almost call it smart.
When Fourmaux has plenty to fight for, potentially as early as 2022, the experience he picked up on Friday at Monza could prove invaluable.
He could have played it safe and just trundled round for an unspectacular sixth place finish. But world champions explore the boundaries, push the envelope to discover what’s what. Fourmaux did just that, which could prove rather ominous for his future.