WRC about to ‘get more serious’ says Tanak
By Jason Craig
Tuesday 9th May, 2023 - 12:29pm
M-Sport Ford’s Ott Tanak has acknowledged the fight for the FIA World Rally Championship title is starting to “get more serious” as the action switches to gravel for the next four months.
This week’s Rally de Portugal is the first of seven consecutive loose surface-based rounds that crews will face and Tanak is acutely aware of how important returning strong points will be from the outset.
The Estonian – who is fourth in the points’ table – continues to push his team for improvements in an effort to keep pace with Hyundai Motorsport’s i20 N and Toyota Gazoo Racing’s GR Yaris.
Although these were slow to arrive initially, they are now starting to be rolled out, but despite this, the former World Rally Champion feels the Puma Rally1 is still far from the finished product.
Tanak came to the conclusion at the end of his pre-event test for the fifth round of the competition which kicks off on Thursday evening. “We are going now into gravel season where things are starting to get more serious in terms of championship competition,” he explained.
“After our pre-event test we are still a bit behind in a few places, but guys are working hard to find ways for improvements and we still have shakedown to test the final details.
“We saw in Mexico that our competitors are strong on gravel and we have some areas where we need to improve over the next few races. Rally Portugal is generally a fast event with quite a sandy surface so some of the second loops of stages can be very rough and demanding,” he added.
Whilst acknowledging the size of the task ahead of him and his co-driving team-mate Martin Jarveoja, Tanak said he is prepared to “give it a go” on an event he last conquered back in 2019 when he was part of the Toyota set-up.
M-Sport Ford’s Team Principal Richard Millener conceded Tanak has done a fine job at rallies Monte Carlo, Sweden, Mexico and Croatia despite the Puma Rally1 being affected by transmission issues. Tanak has also complained recently of struggling to get on top of the car’s ride and handling.
“We have had a strong start to the season, but we know that the competition is getting tougher as we head into the middle of the year,” said Millener.
“Ott has shown incredible pace and consistency so far this season, and we are confident that he will be able to continue his form in Portugal.
“The team has been working hard behind the scenes to ensure that we are delivering the best possible performance on the stages. We are constantly improving our cars and developing our strategies, and we are confident that our hard work will pay off in Portugal.”
He added: “We are excited to see what the rally has in store for us and are eager to put on a show for the fans.”
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