WRC A FULL 2015
M-SPORT LOOK TO MASTER THE MONTE.
20 January 2015
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Elfyn Evans and Ott Tänak will be looking to master the notoriously difficult conditions of Rallye Monte-Carlo next week as they pilot their EcoBoost powered Ford Fiesta RS WRCs on the opening round of the 2015 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC).
Known as one of the jewels in the WRC crown, Monte-Carlo has become famed for its unpredictability. Varying conditions are to be expected. Dry asphalt, wet asphalt, ice and snow can all be found in the same loop, and occasionally the same stage, making it one of the most demanding rallies of the year.
Compromise is key and intelligent tyre choices can make all the difference. The crews require the ability to read the road and the necessary grip in both dry and wintery conditions – a fact which makes the team’s strategists and ice note crews all the more important.
The drivers’ relative inexperience is combined with a wealth of experience in their ice note crews this year. Gwyndaf Evans and Timo Kankkunen head the crews for Evans and Tänak respectively – Kankkunen boasting two decades of Monte experience having assisted both Juha Kankkunen and Mikko Hirvonen in previous seasons.
With a move to the Hautes-Alpes, tougher conditions are to be expected and M-Sport’s young team will draw strength from the experience around them as well as their natural talent and intuition.
For Evans, this year’s event presents a very different challenge to that of 2014. Twelve months ago, the rally marked a daunting start to the youngster’s maiden season with the Fiesta RS WRC but he and co-driver Daniel Barritt came away with a highly respectable sixth place finish.
One year on, the Welshman is poised to improve his performance on each of the WRC’s 13 rounds – increasing his speed and confidence on all surfaces. The competition will be tough, but Evans will be hoping to make a strong start to his 2015 campaign with a composed and competitive drive.
Returning to the Fiesta RS WRC for 2015, Tänak’s appointment was a popular move for the team. The Estonian has contested the event on one previous occasion – finishing eighth overall in 2012 – but there is no doubting his speed and ambition.
Partnered by co-driver Raigo Mõlder, the duo will be looking for a solid start to the year. Using the event to gradually build their speed and reaffirm their familiarity with the top specification Fiesta, they could well spring a few surprises in the early phases of the championship.
M-Sport’s young team may be inexperienced but they will be sure to put their raw talent – as well as the experience of those around them – to good use next week; applying all of their skills in pursuit of a strong result.
Elfyn Evans said:
“Last year was the beginning of a fantastic opportunity, but at the same time we had very little experience of the [Ford] Fiesta RS WRC and we hadn’t been to Monte-Carlo before so there were a lot of new things to learn. It was a very challenging position to be in, but this year everything is much more familiar. The car in particular is a lot more familiar. The event will still be very difficult, but with a full year of competition under our belts I’m really looking forward to it.
“The biggest challenge is undoubtedly the changeable weather conditions – not just from stage to stage but also within a stage. To be successful you need to make smart tyre choices and ultimately find the best compromise for each loop. I’m sure this year’s event will be no exception to that.
“If we can secure a solid result to start the year that would be great. This is a difficult rally so if we can get to the end with glimpses of speed and some good consistency I’ll be happy. We’re keen to build the speed and have the speed there more consistently throughout the year. Of course some events will be stronger than others, but I’m really looking forward to getting started.”
Ott Tänak said:
“I’m expecting a tough event next week. I’ve only done it once before and that was in 2012 when the conditions weren’t as tricky as they have been more recently. It looks as though we could have some wintery conditions this year so we’ll need to stay calm and steady.
“The conditions change all the time. In some places you’ll have full snow and in others there will be patches of Tarmac. Sometimes there’ll be full grip, and sometimes there’ll be no grip at all! It’s really difficult to find the confidence without going over the limit, but we are drivers and that is our job. We need to find the balance between being fast, and being comfortable –nowhere is that more of a challenge than at Monte-Carlo so it is going to be a really tricky start to the year.
“We tested at the end of last year and the feeling was good. We did a lot of mileage and even though I was driving the [Ford] Fiesta R5 for most of 2014, I have a lot of experience with the [Ford] Fiesta RS WRC so it didn’t take long to get back into the groove.
“The hardest part is finding that sweet spot – that special place between being close to the limit without going over it. That will take some time, but if we start smoothly and work up to it I’m sure we can have a good event.”
An impressive eight Ford Fiesta RS WRCs have been entered including those of Bryan Bouffier and Henning Solberg who will both be run by the M-Sport team.
Bouffier makes a celebrated return to the team having piloted his Fiesta RS WRC to second place at last year’s Rallye Monte-Carlo. The Frenchman led the event in its early phases and will once again be capable of challenging for the podium in 2015.
Solberg is a welcome site in the M-Sport service area. The charismatic Norwegian is an immensely talented driver and should not be discounted for a strong result.
In addition, eight Ford Fiesta R5s have been entered alongside two Ford Fiesta R2s.
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