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M-Sport World Rally Team’s Elfyn Evans and Ott Tänak may be venturing into the unknown when the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) reconvenes for next week’s Tour de Corse, but both will be keen to spring a surprise or two.

The event has been absent from the championship for the past seven years and neither crew has any prior experience of Corsica’s unique roads. Despite this, both Ford Fiesta RS WRC drivers will be determined to prove a point and depart the Mediterranean island with a strong haul of points.

Success will be no mean feat however with both crews having just two reconnaissance passes to make a completely new set of pacenotes. If that weren’t enough, the rough and abrasive asphalt provides one of the most demanding challenges of the year.

Tight and twisty mountain roads are often set between rock faces and steep drops into the sea – leaving no room for error and demanding a confidence-fuelled run in pursuit of the top positions.

In a throwback to the endurance rallies of old, the event’s 332.73 competitive kilometres will be contested over a mere nine stages and the team will need to be at the top of their game if they are to fight for the sought-after podium.

Following a run of heart-breaking misfortune, Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt will be particularly determined to leave Corsica with a strong result.

The Welshman has form on asphalt and was the only driver capable of preventing the leading Volkswagens from securing a clean-sweep of stage wins at the previous sealed-surface event in Germany – something he’ll want to repeat next week.

With the team having analysed the issues faced when first introducing the new Fiesta RS WRC to Tarmac, Evans won’t want to let his inexperience hold him back and could well be on pace through the longer stages which historically suit his ever-improving style.

In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Tänak and co-driver Raigo Mõlder are eager to continue their development on asphalt.

Having not piloted a world rally car on black-top speed tests since the latter half of 2012, Tänak admitted to being unfamiliar with the surface in Germany – something he’ll want to change in Corsica.

The Estonian may have no prior experience of the Corsican stages but his raw speed means that he can never be discounted when it comes to predicting who will be well-placed come the end of the rally.

Both drivers have also had an abundance of seat-time since returning from Australia and they’ll be hoping to use that to their advantage next week.

As well as each completing a day and a half of testing on location in Corsica, Evans was entertaining fans at this year’s Rally Day in the UK and both returned to M-Sport HQ to delight a number of team-partner Castrol guests over three days of adrenaline-fuelled passenger rides.
 Elfyn Evans said:

“I’m really looking forward to this event. It’s going to be a challenge – three stages a day, all very long and all very demanding with brand new pacenotes – but I’m excited to discover what we can do in Corsica.

“It’s a unique event in many ways, but from what I’ve seen there is a lot more variation in the stages than there perhaps was in the past. Some are actually quite smooth and surprisingly similar to Catalunya. Then there are those which are typically Corsican – abrasive Tarmac that twists through the mountains. It’s going to be a real technical challenge!

“Since the last Tarmac outing in Germany I feel as though we’ve been able to make a step forward. When everything was perfect, our speed was pretty good, but it’s also fair to say that we struggled in the afternoon’s higher temperatures.

“We’ve had a day and a half of testing before this event and I’m feeling quite confident that we’ve progressed. Of course time will tell when we get to the rally, but for the moment, I’m feeling fairly optimistic.

“There’s no hiding the fact that the competition will be very strong next week so we just have to do the best job we possibly can. A podium would be nice, but let’s wait and see what happens.”

Ott Tänak said:

“It’s going to be tough to know what to expect next week as myself and Raigo [Mõlder, co-driver] have never experienced this rally before. It’s a unique event and although I’ve seen some footage from previous years we really don’t know too much about it.

“We had a day and a half of testing to get used to the characteristics of the roads and they’re really twisty with something happening all the time. It’s going to be important to have a good recce and be fully prepared ahead of this one.

“First and foremost we need to gain the experience. The first time at an event like this is always tricky, but we still want to do our best and secure a good result. We learnt quite a lot about the new car on Tarmac in Germany so if we can pull everything together then a good result is definitely possible.

“We just need to stay calm throughout the weekend and see what happens; but hopefully we can surprise a few people and come away with a strong result.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:

“The Tour de Corse is an event that is truly unique. Experience could well count for a lot next week and with Elfyn [Evans] and Ott [Tänak] having no previous experience of this rally it’s fair to say that they could be at something of a disadvantage.

“Having said that, we know that the car can perform on Tarmac and with a good test under our belts I hope that we will be able to spring a surprise or two. We’ve learnt a lot since Germany and we know that both drivers have the pace to ruffle a few feathers.

“It will be an interesting rally and both drivers are determined to prove a point so I’m excited to see what we can do.”