Tanak keen to cash in on M-Sport development
By Jason Craig
Tuesday 20th June, 2023 - 4:38pm
Ott Tanak says the desire to conquer the unique challenge of Safari Rally Kenya burns as brightly as ever but concedes making it to the finish on Sunday will be no mean feat.
This is the third consecutive season the FIA World Rally Championship is heading into the African savannah and for many top-flight drivers – Tanak included – it has quickly established itself as one of the calendar’s standout fixtures.
On his maiden visit to the gravel classic in 2021 Tanak experienced the high of finishing on the podium before having to contend with the lows of bowing out with a broken propshaft 12 months later with the same team.
This weekend the Estonian returns as a M-Sport Ford driver and is keen to cash-in on the test and development work he has undertaken with the help of mechanics and engineers from the Cockermouth-based squad in recent weeks.
However, with most of the stages encompassing deeply rutted dirt tracks that can quickly turn into a mud bath should the weather turn inclement, Tanak knows it will rank as one of the sternest tests of the current campaign.
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“I wish we had more time to enjoy life around the rally in Kenya, but it’s of course the wildlife that is so special compared to our lives in Europe,” said Tanak, who is currently third in the Championship standings on 85 points, eight behind Thierry Neuville and a further 25 shy of leader Kalle Rovanpera.
“We have more challenges to face in terms of keeping the car in one piece in Kenya! Sections in Fesh-Fesh [softer sand] mean it is easy to get stuck and also difficult to understand where the track goes.
“I haven’t really succeeded there yet so that’s something to discover for myself,” he continued. “We need to make sure we won’t incur any mechanical setbacks with the tough conditions. If we do it is then up to us to give our best performance.”
M-Sport Ford Team Principal Richard Millener is bullish about the Puma Rally1’s prospects despite it being one of the rounds the car has never managed to seriously challenge for silverware on in the previous two instalments.
“There is no hiding away from the fact that this is one of the toughest events of the year and the stages and weather could make a huge difference,” said Millener, “but we know the Puma can be strong here and the goal will be to come away with a strong result.”
Pierre-Louis Loubet makes his Safari debut next week, whilst Jourdan Serderidis returns to action with new co-driver Andy Malfoy for the first time since March’s Rally Mexico. Meanwhile, Gregoire Munster is back behind the wheel of a Fiesta Rally2 in the WRC2 support category.