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Tough Day For M-Sport Down Under

Despite a tough day’s rallying for the M-Sport World Rally Team, Ott Tänak was proving his potential with a number of encouraging times on what is his first taste of a world rally car on the Rally Australia stages.

O. Tanak / R. Molder Photo: M-Sport Ltd
O. Tanak / R. Molder
Photo: M-Sport Ltd

Piloting an Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta RS WRC, the Estonian proved that he and the car were capable of some impressive times. Despite their inexperience, he and co-driver Raigo Mõlder set the third fastest time through both passes of ‘Utungun’ (SS1 and SS5) – asserting their speed and underlining the Fiesta’s performance on gravel.

Unfortunately, a stall on SS4 followed by a spin on SS6 cost him vital seconds. Due to the sprint-like nature of the day’s stages, it was extremely difficult to claw back the time – something which was made all the more tricky as he was one of a number of drivers to report a strange feeling with the handling throughout the day’s extremely slippery closing stages.

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

The team changed the transmission on his Fiesta RS WRC, in an impressive 13 minutes, to ensure there were no potential problems and Tänak ended the day in eighth place – something he’ll be looking to improve as he gains experience of this unique event.

In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, the event did not start as Elfyn Evans had intended. Lacking feeling and confidence, the Welshman’s times were down on what his talent deserved and worse was to come.

Suffering a spin and hitting a bank through the first pass of ‘Newry Long’ (SS4), he picked up a left-rear puncture which cost him more than a minute to the leading pack.

The Welshman currently sits in ninth position and he’ll be looking to improve his pace as the event continues.

Ott Tänak (8th) said:

“Some stages have been quite good today but unfortunately we made a few little mistakes and I was struggling with the car for the last few stages this afternoon.

“We know what we need to do to improve and even though this is my first time here in a world rally car we still need to push hard.

“My target is higher than where we are at the moment so we want to climb higher. We know that we and the car have the potential to go faster, so we just have to go out there and prove it tomorrow.”

Elfyn Evans (9th) said:

“It’s fair to say that we have really struggled today. The spin and the puncture [on SS4] obviously didn’t help, but I’ve mainly been lacking the confidence and the feeling to drive like we know we can.

“If you have the confidence, then the times rocket up. Unfortunately it’s going in the opposite direction for us at the moment. I’m not 100 percent happy, that’s affecting the level of confidence and that’s affecting the times in turn.

“We just need to look at everything for tomorrow and try again. I know that I can be better than this so we need to go out there, give it all we’ve got, and see what happens.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:

“We certainly expected a little bit more coming here. Elfyn [Evans] in particular has had an extremely tough day and he’s struggling to understand why he’s so off the pace of what we all know he’s capable of.

“He [Evans] really does carry the weight of the world on his shoulders and he’s so desperate to do well. As a team we just have to try and relax him for tomorrow so that he can go out there and enjoy his driving. If that happens, the times will come.

“Ott [Tänak]’s pace has been quite good and if you take away the few little set-backs he has had then he would certainly have been a lot higher up. He started well with a couple of third fastest times this morning but when you’re competing with the best here you can’t afford to make any mistakes.

“He’s quite confident for tomorrow and we’re going to make a few changes to the set-up which should hopefully see him being even more competitive.”