23 May 2015

M-Sport World Rally Team’s Ott Tänak is on course to deliver what Team Principal Malcolm Wilson considers his best performance of the year so far at this weekend’s Vodafone Rally de Portugal. Unfortunately, team mate Elfyn Evans suffered yet more misfortune on the fifth round of the 2015 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC).

Producing a confidence-boosting drive, Tänak and co-driver Raigo Mõlder looked supremely comfortable behind the wheel of their new Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Commenting on how much the handling has improved, the Estonian set a string of highly consistent stage times to consolidate a strong fifth place at the end of the day.

Having opted for Michelin’s harder compound rubber for the opening loop, Tänak may have been disadvantaged for the first two stages (SS8 and SS9), but his strategy means he goes into tomorrow’s final speed tests with the option of four brand new LTX Force H4s (hard tyres) or four brand new LTX Force S4s (soft tyres).

With two runs of Fafe left to contest, the Estonian should be in good spirits. Not only does he have the freedom to select the optimum tyre strategy, but he also has good form when it comes to Portugal’s most famous rally stage – conceding victory at last year’s Fafe Rally Sprint by a mere 0.5 seconds.

The combination of Tänak and the new Fiesta RS WRC has demonstrated the potential of M-Sport’s young and ambitious team which is now well on course to secure its goal of challenging for the podium more regularly in the second half of the season.

In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Evans’ bad luck continued. The Welshman produced a highly consistent start to his 2015 campaign, but this weekend’s event is one he’ll be keen to forget.

After yesterday’s electrical issue put paid to any hope of a strong result, he and co-driver Daniel Barritt were looking forward to experiencing the power of their new Fiesta RS WRC; only to be denied that pleasure once again.

Hitting a bank midway through the first test of the day, they damaged the Fiesta’s front-left suspension and encountered further complications having to extinguish a fire caused by the impact splitting an oil pipe.

M-Sport’s team affected a full repair and Evans will restart under Rally 2 regulations tomorrow – looking forward to experiencing the incredible atmosphere expected on Rally de Portugal’s closing stage.

Ott Tänak (5th) said:

“I think the day has been good and I’m happy that we could show some really consistent pace this afternoon.
“We’ve just felt comfortable all weekend. I’m really enjoying the driving and the handling of the car is perfect – whatever I want it to do, it does.

“So far it’s been a very positive weekend for us as it’s been a while since I’ve felt this good. It’s great for the confidence that we are able to set such good times without having to take any risks and tomorrow should provide us with another positive day.

“I know most of the Fafe stage having competed there twice already, and we have a little joker left with the tyres so I am really looking forward to it.”

Elfyn Evans (83rd) said:

“This certainly isn’t the rally we wanted and it’s fair to say that we’re all really disappointed. Okay there was a little mishap that put us back yesterday, but we were looking forward to getting back out and making the most of the new car. It’s really disappointing for myself and Dan [Barritt, co-driver] and also for the team who worked so hard to get the car ready for us.

“It was a clumsy error on my part. I got the car set-up for the corner, it gripped in and I went too hard on the inside. We hit the bank, a big stone ripped the suspension off the car, and that was that.

“I had no idea the car was on fire until long after we stopped. My initial reaction was to try and fix the car so I jumped out and went straight to the boot. Then Dan shouted that it was on fire and there was a fairly rapid change of action!

“We think the fire was caused by an oil pipe which split when the wheel was ripped off. Luckily we managed to put it out because I had visions of Mikko’s [Hirvonen] car from Sardinia last year and that would have been an absolutely disastrous end to what has already been a very disappointing event!

“We need to look to the future. I’m looking forward to experiencing Fafe tomorrow and we know that there are a lot of positives for the team to take away from this weekend. Ott [Tänak] has already shown how great the potential of this car is and the team are continuously working on new developments so things can only get better.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:

“I think this has been one of Ott’s [Tänak] best days at the office – his best performance of the year so far. He’s stayed out of trouble and the times he’s been able to set without taking any risks have been really encouraging.

“He was a little disadvantaged on the hard tyre this morning, but that leaves him with a lot of options for tomorrow with no pressure from anyone ahead or behind.

“Of course we are all very disappointed for Elfyn [Evans]. He’s been supremely consistent up until now and it’s a shame that he hasn’t been able to the experience of these unknown stages.

“ It’s just been one of those rallies for him, but I’m pleased that he’ll be able to get back out tomorrow when he can simply concentrate on having some fun through Fafe.”















Anna Rudd
Media M-Sport WRT

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