M-SPORT CHASE CHAMPIONSHIP BOOST ON THE COSTA DAURADA
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Elfyn Evans and Ott Tänak will be looking for a strong haul of points on the penultimate round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). Journeying to Spain for RallyRACC Catalunya – Costa Daurada, the team have high hopes of reigniting a three-way battle for second place in the manufacturers’ championship.
As the series’ only mixed surface event of the year, Rally de España will see the crews tackle speed tests on both gravel and asphalt. A gravel set-up is required for the first full day of competition; before M-Sport’s expert team of technicians convert each Ecoboost powered Ford Fiesta RS WRC into its asphalt guise for the remainder of the rally.
The opening gravel tests are technical in nature and interspersed with stretches of Tarmac – a challenge in itself as the drivers strive to extract optimum performance from their loose-surface set-ups.
The asphalt stages that follow are some of the smoothest and most flowing of the year. Resembling a racetrack, they can also be highly abrasive and the crews must manage their tyres perfectly during each phase of the event.
Coming off the back of a career-best performance in Corsica, Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt will be relishing another outing behind the wheel of their Fiesta RS WRC. The Welshman has worked with the team to improve the loose-surface set-up, and when the competition turns to Tarmac, he’ll be looking to excel.
There hasn’t been much time for the WRC’s latest star to bask in the glory of his best performance to date. Since returning from Corsica, Evans was in action at the Wales Rally GB media day – entertaining guests and dignitaries with a spin in his Ford Fiesta. He also attended the Sportel Business Convention as a guest of the WRC Promoter in Monte-Carlo.
Tänak didn’t get into his rhythm in Corsica, but the Estonian and his compatriot co-driver Raigo Mõlder will be looking to put that right next week. The Estonian will want to make an impact through the opening gravel tests – making his mark and rebuilding his confidence ahead of the Tarmac stages. The Spanish asphalt is far removed from what the crews experienced at the Tour de Corse, and he’ll be hoping that plays to his advantage next week.
Tänak too has not had much time to relax as he and Mõlder contested their local Saaremaa Rally in Estonia – behind the wheel of a car built and prepared by Tänak’s own OT Racing team. The popular Estonian also celebrated a birthday this week – turning 28 years young on Thursday.
Elfyn Evans said: “This is the only mixed surface event of the year and I’m really looking forward to the challenges ahead. The remaining battles in both the drivers’ and manufacturers’ championships and really close so we’ll be looking for a strong haul of points before the season finale.
“The gravel stages are quite technical and have a few stretches of asphalt which is a challenge in itself. When you have long sections of asphalt in the middle of a gravel stage, the car moves around quite a lot and you have to think about preserving your tyres for the remainder of the leg.
“It’s quite a strategic rally in that sense and you have to think about the long game. Hopefully we can have a solid run through the gravel ready for the asphalt on Saturday and Sunday.
“Spain’s Tarmac roads are as close to a circuit that we get all season. There are a lot of changes to the itinerary this year and quite a few new stages that I can’t wait to experience for myself. “I’ve contested this event on three previous occasions so I’d like to be challenging amidst the top-five. Who knows, if everything is perfect, another podium might even be a possibility!”
Ott Tänak said: “I haven’t driven this event competitively since 2012, but we did the recce last year and it was good to see that it looked as good as I remembered. It’s always a really enjoyable event.
“The gravel stages are smooth and fast – which I enjoy – and I think everyone would agree that the Tarmac stages are some of the best on the calendar.
“Going from one surface to another can be a little strange at the beginning. It’s something that is a little out of the ordinary for us as we’re used to driving on one surface for the entire weekend. But we tend to get into a rhythm surprisingly quickly and by the time we’re into the second asphalt stage we’re all pretty much up to speed.
“If the weather is good – and dust isn’t an issue – we should have quite a good road position for the first day. I really enjoy this car on gravel and we plan to push from the very beginning. It’ll be the same on the Tarmac – pushing hard and having a good rhythm throughout.”
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said: “Rally de España is the only mixed surface event of the year and that brings some unique challenges. It’s the only rally where we see the cars at maximum performance on both gravel and asphalt and I’m confident that we can be competitive on both.
“Having fought for victory on both surfaces, we know that the Ford Fiesta RS WRC is a competitive package on both loose- and sealed-surface rallies. We’ll be aiming for a strong result from both crews which reignites our fight for second place in the manufacturers’ championship.”
M-Sport will also run the Ford Fiesta RRCs of Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari and Yurii Protasov as they continue their WRC 2 campaigns.