Ford WRC boss respects Tanak’s departure

Ford WRC boss Richard Millener has reacted to news Ott Tanak will leave the team. Image: M-Sport

Ford WRC boss Richard Millener has reacted to news Ott Tanak will leave the team. Image: M-Sport

The decision by Ott Tanak to depart M-Sport after just one season competing in Ford’s Puma Rally1 is something “we need to accept”, its team principal has said.

Richard Millener said it had been “a pleasure” to have the former world champion back in their ranks for 2023, he conceded the high hopes everyone had prior to it had failed to materialise.

Along with Malcolm Wilson – the chairman of M-Sport – he was crucial in getting a deal over the line, whilst also securing additional support from Ford Performance – the sporting division of Ford Motor Company.

“It has been a pleasure to work with Ott and Martin this season, a lot of work went into making the dream of getting them back to M-Sport a reality,” said Millener.

“Unfortunately, sometimes things just don’t go as you hoped, and their decision to leave the team at the end of the season is a consequence we need to accept, whilst now thinking towards what we can achieve for 2024.

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“I would, however, like to take the opportunity to thank everyone at M-Sport who has worked tirelessly to give their all into this project with Ott and Martin, their hard work was rewarded with two superb victories,” he continued.

“But even through misfortune they have never given up, which only goes to show their strength and determination. There are still two events left and our aim remains to deliver further top results.”

Tanak is heading back to Hyundai Motorsport at the end of the current FIA World Rally Championship campaign having endured multiple setbacks in his pursuit of a second drivers’ title.

Whilst acknowledging “this sport is tough”, he did not hold back in saying “we went down a few times too many”. The year to date has not been a complete whitewash, however, with a win at Rally Sweden in February being followed by success on the South American roads of Rally Chile. He also finished runner-up at Croatia Rally back in April.

However, after a promising start to the year, retirements, time penalties and reliability issues at crucial moments meant he quickly lost pace with Toyota’s Kalle Rovnapera and Elfyn Evans, and Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville in the fight for silverware and all-important points.

Wilson admitted it was “very disappointing for me personally” to lose the Estonian to a rival manufacturer with whom he has enjoyed five World Rally Championship victories.

“Firstly, I would like to thank Ott and Martin for their efforts this season,” said Wilson. “Looking back, the season started so well, fifth overall in Monte Carlo – Ott’s best finish there in the new Rally1 cars – followed by a victory in Sweden.

“We had a tough spell after this, and despite their incredible result in Chile, but the year we all dreamt of just hasn’t come to fruition,” he added.

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