Fri 14 Jan 2022

Teams complete final checks for season opener

All three factory teams returned to the French Alps this week, running one final test ahead of the season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo which gets underway next week (20 - 23 January).

Craig Breen and the M-Sport Ford squad stole the headlines when he crashed off the road on Wednesday. The British-based team was forced to employ the services of a crane to winch the stranded hybrid-powered Ford Puma Rally1 from the bottom of a valley. 

The team worked through the night to have the car rebuilt and ready for Gus Greensmith on Thursday morning.

Breen said: “I’m happy that myself and Paul [Nagle, co-driver] are both OK. I think we were quite unlucky. We touched a bridge parapet and that put us off the road and down a steep embankment. 

“I’m obviously gutted for the team and for all the boys and girls who worked tirelessly over Christmas to get the cars ready. This is not the best way to repay that hard work. I have to say, the car felt amazing and now we look forward to next week.”

M-Sport Ford team principal Richard Millener praised the efforts in getting the car out in time for Greensmith's test session. 

He added: “Everybody did a fantastic job. We’re all hugely grateful for the effort they put in to make this happen and to keep the test schedule on time.

“Like Craig said, I think it was unfortunate, but the car rolled down the bank and needed a fair bit of work. The main thing is the boys were fine and we could carry on with the test.”

M-Sport Ford’s testing work is, of course, not quite finished yet, with Sébastien Loeb flying back from the Dakar in Saudi Arabia to drive the Puma on Sunday. 

Hyundai Motorsport and Toyota Gazoo Racing enjoyed a more straightforward week, with all of their drivers completing their running almost unhindered. The teams were all running in and around the Gap area, not far from the Saturday stages on next week’s season opener. 

While the weather was almost universally sunny with clear skies,  some drivers – Sébastien Ogier notably – preferred to run a road with more snow and ice in order to find a feel for the Rally1 car in compromised conditions.

• Full coverage from Rallye Monte-Carlo will be available on WRC+ All Live here, including every stage broadcast as it happens as well as key interviews, features and expert analysis from the service park.

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