M-Sport rules out playing tactical games with Tänak

Championship leader will remain first on the road for the first part of his Rally México fightback

Ott Tanak

M-Sport has ruled out purposefully dropping Ott Tänak down the Rally México running order after his Friday morning problems.

That means he will continue running first on the road for the rest of the day as he begins his fightback.

Team principal Richard Millener feels Tänak wouldn’t actually be any better off running further down the start order.

Almost Tänak’s entire morning was spent cruising through the stages after suffering a turbo failure halfway through the first stage of the day, El Chocolate.

He managed to drag his Ford Puma Rally1 back to service to be fixed, with the aim to return to Friday’s second loop in a much better condition.

Running first on the road on Friday, due to being championship leader, was always expected to hinder Tänak anyway, even before he lost time to the engine problem.

Asked if M-Sport would purposefully drop him down the road order, Millener said it would not be worth it.

“I think no, because we know we’re on the limit of where we need to be to claw the positions back to where we want to get to,” he told DirtFish.

“But also, I would tend to look at it that the less cars that run over these rocky roads is probably maybe a better scenario as well.

“So it’s a catch 22, you can look for a little bit more cleaning, but as more cars pass, there’s more rocks and more possibility of issues that way.”

It’s by no means an ideal situation for the Tänak to be in on just the first full day, however Millener is remaining cautiously optimistic that after the other events of the morning – including a retirement from his team-mate Pierre-Louis Loubet and a crash from Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta – a positive result can be taken away come Sunday.

Tänak is currently 26th overall, 12 and a half minutes from the lead.

“There is a possibility we feel that you could still manage to get back to top 10,” he said.

“There’s still fights going on throughout the rally, the stages are getting harder and rougher so there’s still an opportunity. And of course, Sunday afternoon is key in the powerstage.

“The powerstage here is used about three or four times prior to the actual run on the powerstage so in terms of cleanliness of the road, hopefully road position won’t be so relevant for that one.

“There’s an opportunity to gain some more points there and we have to remember a couple of the guys at the top of the leaderboard at the minute are not doing a full season either.

“So there’s still a lot to play for and you certainly don’t give up on the lunchtime of the first day.”