The NGK-sponsored M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRCs will be back in action this week as the FIA World Rally Championship resumes at Rally Estonia – almost six months after the global coronavirus pandemic brought world sport to a standstill.
The event, which takes place on September 4-6, marks the first return to live competitive rallying since the team’s Teemu Suninen and Jarmo Lehtinen took third place at Rally Mexico in their Ford Fiesta WRC which is fitted with NGK spark plugs and NTK Lambda sensors.
Hosting the return of top-flight rallying, the Estonian fixture has been organised in line with new guidelines set out by the FIA and Estonian Government, and strict protocols to ensure a safe and successful return include mandatory testing, the use of face coverings, social distancing and the creation of groups to minimise the potential risk.
As a new event in a new-look 2020 calendar, Estonia becomes the 33rd country to host a round of the FIA World Rally Championship and is famed for its blisteringly fast, high-speed, stages. Estonians have a love for rallying and the gravel stages are not unfamiliar to the top teams – all of which attended a WRC Promotional event in Estonia last year.
Team Principal Richard Millener said: “It’s great to be going rallying again. I have certainly missed the action – so much so that I got behind the wheel myself on the M-Sport Return to Rally Stages in Greystoke last week. It was good fun and I didn’t embarrass myself, but not in the same league as these guys and I think we’re all looking forward to seeing them blasting through the forests once more.
“This rally is going to be the blueprint for all future FIA World Rally Championship events, and I have to say that the organisers have done a fantastic job in ensuring its safe and successful running. Everything has been considered and planned, and it’s thanks to the hard work of so many behind the scenes that we’re able to get this fantastic sport back up and running.
“Realistically of course, we know that we’re not in the same position as the other teams. With no competition for almost six months, we’ve been hit particularly hard by the global pandemic and had to re-evaluate a lot of what we do. We’ve not had the luxury of testing, but all three crews have had at least some seat time and I know they’re looking forward to being back in action.”
Mark Hallam, Marketing Manager, NGK Spark Plugs (UK) Ltd, said: “I’m sure that all NGK customers who are WRC fans will be delighted that the season is finally getting underway again and will be following the progress of the M-Sport team.”
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