M-Sport crews take on technical tarmac on Croatia Rally

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M-Sport Ford World Rally Team is set up to tackle the FIA World Rally Championship’s first full asphalt event of the 2024 season. As Adrien Fourmaux and Grégoire Munster line up in two Ford Puma Rally1s, joined again by William Creighton in a Ford Fiesta Rally2, the trio will look to thrive on Croatia’s challenging stages next weekend.

After a strong start to the 2024 season for M-Sport’s junior drivers, the team heads to the championship’s fourth round with Frenchman Fourmaux third in the drivers’ championship.

Now in its fourth year as part of the WRC, Croatia is a fully entrenched fan favourite thanks to its mixed surfaces, crests, jumps and incredible scenery. With over 300,000 fans lining the stages in 2022 and 2023, the atmosphere stage-side is tough to compare to other WRC rounds.

Strategy will be key in Croatia for all crews. With grip levels changing multiple times throughout a single stage, tyre choices will be a crucial character in the story of Rally Croatia. Crews must exercise precision on the fast, flowing roads that can quickly become uneven and broken up in places, managing deep cuts on corners and the subsequent risk of puncture.

Weather can quickly have an impact, with rain and even slightly higher humidity levels affecting the grip levels on the stages. Those running further down the field will risk encountering gravel and other debris being pulled on to the road too, quickly changing the conditions after each car.

The Ford Puma Rally1 will also debut an updated rear wing in Croatia, following developments throughout the 2023 season. The improved aerodynamics of the upgraded wing will look to benefit crews on Croatia’s high-speed sections and throughout the rest of the season.

Fourmaux arrives in Croatia after stunning performances on the previous two events; a career first third overall on Sweden, swiftly followed by another podium on the iconic Safari Rally Kenya, Fourmaux looks to add a Tarmac trophy into the mix.

Fittingly making his top-flight debut on Croatia’s maiden WRC appearance in 2021, Fourmaux wowed fans with an impressive fifth overall. Increasing his experience on asphalt since then, he would deliver strong results throughout 2023 in the WRC2 category on this surface, culminating in a category win on Central European Rally back in October.

“Croatia is a really special event for me, it was my first time in a world rally car in the championship back in 2021, where I finished 5th. I really like the roads, with the really smooth Tarmac sections, but it’s also one of the most difficult Tarmac events of the season. Because the grip is so changeable, it’s not easy to know where the grip is and where it’s not, the kind of Tarmac changes so much. So we need a lot of precision because there are also a lot of cuts. It’s a big challenge for all the crews, but an enjoyable rally with all the spectators who come out to watch every year. I’m really looking forward to it, and after two podiums so far I’m hoping that we can continue in that way!” the french driver said.

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Gregoire Munster

Luxembourg driver Munster returns to his favoured surface with a sigh of relief, after negotiating the unfamiliar territory of Swedish and Kenyan stages on previous events. Career born on Belgian Tarmac, Munster thrives on high-speed stages and has seen some of his career-best finishes on asphalt, most notably his category win in WRC2 at Rally Japan 2022. Starting the season with encouraging pace despite facing entirely new challenges in Rally1 machinery, Munster is set to be competitive on Croatia’s stages.

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William Creighton on Fiesta Rally2

William Creighton also rejoins the ranks in a Fiesta Rally2, his first WRC outing on Tarmac in the Rally2. With two asphalt podiums under his belt already in the Irish Tarmac Championship and the British Rally Championship, the Irishman is in good stead to take on Croatia’s challenges. Competing every iteration of the rally since 2021 in the Junior WRC, Creighton will call on his strong knowledge base to tackle the technical stages.

The Junior WRC returns for its second round in Croatia, where 17 crews will line up in M-Sport Poland-built Fiesta Rally3 cars. The championship saw a record number of entries on its opening round in Sweden, and Croatia is set to bring more action as the Juniors continue their battle for the top spots.