M-Sport had some concerns about Ott Tänak’s engine, which has ultimately been changed, before he took on Thursday’s shakedown stage, Tänak has revealed.
The 2019 world champion set the pace on the 2.5-mile shakedown stage, but immediately reported an engine problem at the end of the test and was therefore towed back to service.
Upon his return, the M-Sport Ford team deduced that the engine needed to be changed and Tänak will therefore start his home round of the World Rally Championship with a five-minute time penalty – ruling out any hope of victory.
Asked by DirtFish if the issue was a recurring one or brand-new, Tänak confirmed it was “a new problem” but admitted he knew before shakedown that there could be a problem.
“It seemed to be a fresh engine and obviously first fire-up it seemed that already yesterday they were not sure about this, and obviously I was notified this morning that there could be some trouble,” he said.
“Obviously we were not sure if it’s coming or not, so yeah, unfortunately reality hit us later.”
Asked about those concerns team members had on Wednesday, M-Sport team principal Richard Millener told DirtFish “the guys were a little bit unsure on maybe a couple of things” but needed shakedown to confirm it.
“We used all the time we had to discuss and think about anything that it could be and there was no guarantee that there was anything wrong with it anyway,” Millener explained.
“So it’s difficult to know, and the thought was always ‘go to shakedown and hope that everything was going to be OK’. Unfortunately that’s not been the case.
“We can’t look at it at the minute, it’s fully sealed so there’s not so much we can say about what’s happened. All we know is we needed to change it.”
Pressed on what those indications were that something might be wrong with the engine, Millener added: “The guys were just looking at some things and had a couple of concerns, but I’m not going to venture any more details on that, and ultimately we find ourselves in the position we’re in now, which is clear what’s going to happen.
“So we’ve got to regroup, refocus and go forward.”
Of all the rallies for this to happen, for it to be his home event is particularly galling for Tänak.
But he isn’t so worried about a shot at home glory, more on the effect this has on his championship challenge.
“I would say it’s not really about Rally Estonia, it’s just more about the championship in general,” Tänak said.
“Obviously rally is rally in the end so it doesn’t really matter where you are, but the results in this kind of time in the championship is critical everywhere.
“There is no competition [for us here] anymore,” he added.
“Maybe in Safari five minutes would have been still OK but clearly here it doesn’t give you much hopes anymore so yeah, at least we are still able to drive a bit so let’s try.
“But no points probably.”
When asked if Tänak’s trouble caused him any concern over his own engine, M-Sport’s second driver Pierre-Louis Loubet replied: “I think on my side, no.”