‘Mismatch’ cost Tanak at Rally Mexico

Ott Tanak

Ott Tanak has labelled his relationship with the Puma Rally1 car as a ‘mismatch’ in the aftermath of his ninth-place finish on last weekend’s Rally Mexico alongside Martin Jarveoja.

Pre-event, the Estonian was in bullish mood about taking the fight to the Hyundai and Toyota rivals having beaten them at Rally Sweden to move to the top of the drivers’ standings.

However, a turbo-related problem early on Friday quickly dashed those hopes as he lost 12-and-a-half minutes to the leaders, meaning the remainder of the event became something of an exercise in damage limitation.

His never-say-die attitude and persistence in the face of transmission issues with his M-Sport Ford machine was rewarded on the end-of-rally Power Stage, however a second quickest time to eventual Rally Mexico winner Sebastien Ogier meaning he collected four additional points.

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Since re-joining the Cockermouth-based squad at the start of the season, the 2019 World Rally Champion has been pushing Team Principal Richard Millener and his colleagues hard for improvements in a bid to keep pace with the GR Yaris Rally1 and i20 N Rally1 cars respectively. However, significant changes are expected to be limited for time, cost and regulatory reasons.

“I am happy to cross the finish line, there was nothing more we could have taken from here,” said Tanak.

“Still, it’s positive to at least take some points because on Friday it didn’t look like we could get any points.

“The car [performance] is there – it has always been there – it’s just me and the car are a bit of a mismatch, which is tricky but let’s see what we can come up with in the next weeks.”

For his part, Millener conceded the end result was not what the team had been hoping for but was keen to focus on the positives as the action switches back to asphalt for April’s Croatia Rally.

“On paper, the results are disappointing for us this weekend, there is no doubt about that,” he said.

“I have to say I am incredibly proud of what the team did to turn Ott’s result around though, it went from looking like a retirement to soldiering on and going beyond what we thought possible in service on Friday.

“This team spirit helped us get Ott back into the top ten and in a strong enough position to score power stage points. Ott’s driving too has been great, yet again he drove a clean rally with zero mistakes and that showed in the power stage our championship position is still quite solid. “

Ott’s running-mate Pierre-Louis Loubet said he was sure he would have “better days” as a top-flight driver. He sparkled on shakedown but retired early on Friday with a damaged suspension before re-joining on the Saturday and exiting again for the same reason after running wide on SS17 and hitting a rock.

The young Frenchman – on his first competitive appearance outside of Europe – returned to action on Sunday to finish the rally and gain what the team described as “more precious mileage”.

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