The NGK-sponsored M-Sport Ford World Rally Team brought its cars home safely at the Rally Italia-Sardegna in some of the most brutal conditions on the World Rally Championship calendar.
Gus Greensmith and his new co-driver Stuart Loudon claimed seventh place in their Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC.
The young Englishman impressed with the maturity he displayed as he got the car fully dialled-in to the tight, treacherous gravel stages on the opening morning and only a gearbox issue at the end of Leg 1 and an electrical fault from Leg 2 kept him from a top-five finishing position.
Teemu Suninen continued to build his knowledge of the new range of gravel tyres implemented for the series in 2021 on his first WRC outing since the snowbound stages of the Arctic Rally in February.
Suninen and co-driver Mikko Markkula finished eighth position after rolling out on the first stage of the rally and using the subsequent two days to gain valuable data for the team.
In WRC2, Adrien Fourmaux underlined his potential by recovering from a retirement on the opening day to finish sixth in the hard-fought junior category.
M-Sport Team Principal Richard Millener said: “Sardinia is an event that tests cars and drivers to the limit of their endurance and almost every team throughout the service park has suffered one disappointment or another.
“That does not make it easier for us to look back at how the weekend has gone when you see our pace and what our potential finishing positions may have been.”
Mark Hallam, marketing manager at NGK Spark Plugs (UK) Ltd, said: “The M-Sport Ford drivers fought hard in what were undoubtedly some of the most testing conditions they will face during the 2021 season and never gave up battling for the team.”