M-Sport and Tänak both hoping to be faster

The rekindled partnership has had a decent start, but both parties are after more

WRC 2023

Ott Tänak and the M-Sport Ford team were both hoping to be closer to the front on the Monte Carlo Rally – Tänak feeling comfortable in the Puma Rally1 but not fast enough.

Tänak has re-signed for the team he last drove for in 2017 to spearhead its attack in the World Rally Championship, and so far he is fourth overall albeit just shy of a minute down on Sébastien Ogier’s rally-leading Toyota.

The 2019 world champion’s first stage in a Puma was compromised by what M-Sport team principal Richard Millener has confirmed was a software issue, but thereafter he’s had a clean weekend but just hasn’t been able to trouble the pace-settings Yarises.

After his pre-event test last week, Tänak recognized that he did not yet have an optimum setup which suited him – but he didn’t expect that to be too huge a factor on the Monte given the rally typically serves up changeable condition

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But on stages that Tänak has described as “racy” – particularly in the afternoon – he hasn’t been producing the stage times he would like.

“In the end it was a consistent day,” Tänak said. “Let’s say in a short summary the comfort is there but the speed is missing.

“The grip was definitely improving and generally all the stages were getting more and more racy. Let’s say it’s something you would not expect from Monte at least

“We’d like to improve, we’d like to find a direction where we can be more competitive and to find a bit more performance from the car,” he added. “For sure there are many, many things we need to find a direction so we see what we can do tomorrow.”

WRC 2023

Millener agreed with his new headline signing, confessing that fourth and 54.2 seconds down less than halfway through the rally is not “quite where we want to be”. But Millener was equally realistic in his verdict.

“I think we’d all like to be a little bit closer but realistically Ott’s had a day and a half in the car on these kind of roads,” he told DirtFish.

“And I think it’s easier to get comfortable and to feel you’re in a good place on a test road. He had two different test roads so had a bit of an opportunity to setup for that but as soon as you come to a rally and you have everything else going on, it always gets a little more complicated.

“Add in the competition and it adds to that as well. I think him and Kalle [Rovanperä] both struggled a little bit on some of the earlier stages with some salt and maybe some dust and debris on the road surface.

“We’re not quite where we want to be, not quite as close as we want to be, realistically we knew that to just turn up here and expect to match the Toyotas is probably unrealistic but if you compare us to Hyundai I think we’re there,” Millener added.

“Looking at some of the stage times against Toyotas we’re not far away, but we just need to work on a few bits with feedback he’s come to us with.”