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Tanak Proves Potential Down Under

M-Sport World Rally Team’s Ott Tänak showed his potential at this weekend’s Rally Australia. The Estonian finished in sixth place – an impressive feat on what was his first taste of the Australian stages with M-Sport’s top-specification Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

Getting to grips with the nature of the region’s unique roads, Tänak and co-driver Raigo Mõlder came into their own through yesterday’s speed tests.

O. Tänak / R. Mõlder Photo: M-Sport Ltd

Out performing a number of their more experienced rivals, they secured a third fastest time on SS9 followed by a second fastest time on SS10 – just 0.6 seconds adrift of the stage victory.

Considering that his only previous experience of these distinct stages came at the wheel of a Ford Fiesta R5, his pace was highly encouraging – underlining the performance of the Ecoboost-powered Fiesta and firmly stating his speed potential.

E. Evans / D. Barritt Photo: M-Sport Ltd
E. Evans / D. Barritt
Photo: M-Sport Ltd

In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC however, Elfyn Evans simply could not get to grips with the nature of the Australian roads. The Welshman struggled for confidence all weekend and the pace he was able to extract from the unfamiliar terrain was far from what his talent deserved.

Gradually improving their pace as the event went on, he and co-driver Daniel Barritt were able to make some inroads, but with little to fight for this is an event they’ll be keen to forget.

As the FIA World Rally Championship returns to asphalt next month, the Brits will be keen to turn their season around with a positive result on the notorious Tour de Course.

Elsewhere in the WRC 2 category, M-Sport cars completely dominated the time sheets which resulted in a podium lock-out for the Ford Fiesta RRC.

Following an intense battle for victory, Nasser Al-Attiyah claimed the spoils 13.5 seconds ahead of Yurii Protasov who suffered a 10 second penalty for a jump start on SS15. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari rounded off the top-three in third place.

Ott Tänak (6th) said:

“It’s been a really tough rally. This was my first experience of these stages with a world rally car so there was a lot to discover. We made a lot of changes to the notes and it was good to see that the speed was still good enough to set some competitive stage times.

“With the experience we have, it was very hard to follow the top crews but we have learnt a lot and I am sure that we will be able to compete at the highest level in the future.”

Elfyn Evans (9th) said:

“It’s been a really tough rally for us. We managed to make some small inroads throughout the weekend, but we still weren’t where we wanted to be. It’s important that we go back to the office and work out what was wrong so that we can ensure that we don’t have another rally like this for a very long time!

“Now, my mind is firmly fixed on Corsica where I hope that we can rebuild our confidence and start to show the speed we know we are capable of.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:

“We have seen some encouraging performances from Ott [Tänak] this weekend. Considering that he has never driven these stages with a world rally car, the times that he was able to set clearly show that the potential is there.

“Obviously this is a rally that Elfyn [Evans] will want to forget, but we need to understand why he wasn’t able to compete at the level we all know he is capable of. We’ll analyse all of the data when we get back to the UK and I know that he’ll already be focussing on Corsica.

“In the WRC 2 category it is fantastic to see the Ford Fiesta dominating once again and I must say congratulations to Nasser [Al-Attiyah], Yurii [Protasov] and Abdulaziz [Al-Kuwari] for their podium results.

“We saw a fantastic battle between Nasser and Yurii today, and this result has seen Nasser extend his lead at the head of the WRC 2 standings.”