The first stage of the Safari Rally was not easy for the M-Sport team. However, everything had started well for the English structure, which on Friday had signed the first scratch through its luxury freelancer Sébastien Loeb, while placing its four cars in the top 6.
But the situation deteriorated rapidly thereafter, with all its crews being hit by accident during a day which would have been particularly difficult for competitors. It’s very simple: no Puma Rally1 was present in the top 10 and therefore in the points last night, a first according to team manager Malcolm Wilson’s own admission.
The problems started with Loeb’s withdrawal, which occurred shortly after the end of the first loop, when the Frenchman, then number three in the rally, stopped before starting a fire on his car.
Unable to restart, the nine-time world champion then attempted to reach assistance, located about fifteen kilometers from the stopping point, using electric mode, but was only able to cover two-thirds of the distance, flat battery. “We went in electric mode and we traveled ten kilometers”confirmed Alsace. “But then we ran out of battery and the car stopped 5km from assistance.”
A heartache for Alsace, who aspired to finally win the Safari Rally, an event that has always been denied him throughout his career. “The pace was good and we tried to take it easy, but I knew it was going to be a tough race”he concluded fatalistically.
If Loeb’s resignation was a blow to M-Sport, it was only a prelude to the problems that would affect the team. Gus Greensmith actually lost more than 13 minutes due to a puncture in the back right on the last stage of the morning, which damaged his rim and made it difficult to replace that wheel.
In fourth place at the start of the day, Adrien Fourmaux was forced to retire after switching to assistance after a transmission problem at the back, while his team-mate Craig Breen had to stop on the last special of the day to remedy a puncture.
The epilogue about a very dark start to the test for M-Sport, and it’s easy to understand Malcolm Wilson’s horror last night, who blamed the battle by explaining that he had never experienced such an apocalyptic scenario for his troops. “I do not remember that we lost three cars in scoring position on the first day, honestly I can not say when it was last time.”
Wilson blamed the battle after the terrible day his team suffered on Friday
“It’s an incredible show with features you can’t find anywhere else in the world, though I honestly think fech-fech [sable mou ayant la consistance de la farine] it ruins it a bit when you look at what has happened to many cars. “
Words Confirmed by Richard Millener, Team Leader: “I still believe the car is very strong, but the fact is that we had a number of unfortunate crashes and other problems on each of them, but there is nothing we can do.”
Greensmith retired after SS9
M-Sport started the 2022 season with a bang at the Rallye Monte-Carlo, with a surprising victory for Loeb as well as two other cars in the top five, with Craig Breen and Gus Greensmith finishing in third and fifth place respectively in the initial event.
Alas, the English team then experienced a downturn and had to wait for the Rally of Sardinia at the beginning of the month to reconnect to the podium thanks to Breen, number two. The latter was also surprised at how hard the first day was offered to competitors in Kenya. “It was a bit of a disaster to be honest, the whole team had a tough day”explained the Irishman to Motorsport.com.
“I was happy with the way things went, happy with my speed and that I did not make any mistakes. I did not take any unnecessary risks, therefore what happened on the last stage is a bit of a disaster to be honest. “
Breen may have thought he had avoided the pitfalls last Friday before a puncture reminded him of the harsh reality of the day’s final stage
However, all is not lost for M-Sport, which will try to revive itself this Saturday and save what can be saved. First positive sign, Loeb was able to start again – like his compatriot Fourmaux – in the race after repairs (which were not won yesterday), and was even ahead of the fight on SS8 controversial this morning, finishing the latter in fifth place .
On the other hand, Greensmith was forced to retire at the end of the following phase due to cooling issues at his Puma Rally1. The Englishman had also participated in his last timed course with his windshield, after damaging it on the previous special after a half throw.
To give himself courage and motivation, Wilson dives back into the course of the previous edition, which was full of twists: “It seems to me that last year Kalle [Rovanperä] retired after day one, but still finished sixth in the rally, so the goal is to get the cars back in condition today, because anything can happen. “
We also remember that the winner of the 2021 edition, Sébastien Ogier, had completed the first stage with two minutes of payouts on the leader before falling behind and winning in the extremis on Sunday morning. Proof that you should never admit defeat.