If you thought Ott Tänak was the only one driving M-Sport Ford forward this World Rally Championship season, think again.
In M-Sport team principal Richard Millener’s light-hearted words: “Ott’s easy!”
Tänak’s co-driver, Martin Järveoja, is applying just as much pressure on the semi-works team to enable it to sustain its world title challenge against the factory Toyota and Hyundai outfits as Tänak is.
Järveoja has been Tänak’s co-driver ever since the start of the 2017 season – Tänak’s last at M-Sport before his two-year Toyota spell and three-season stint at Hyundai.
In that time since the Estonians left, they became world champions and thus developed immensely as a crew – prompting Millener to draw comparisons between Tänak and Sébastien Ogier in the way he’s been able to make every single member stand to attention and be driven forwards.
Naturally that brings a fair bit of stress for M-Sport’s personnel, but Millener says that’s exactly what the team needs.
“Ott always keeps us stressed!” Millener said. “I think pushing us is the way forward though, you know?
“If everything was perfect, we’re not doing our job good enough because there is always something you can improve on. There’s a few things to do. I’m waiting on Martin’s email now! Which I’m sure will be long enough!
“But we have just got to keep working together as a team. We’ve got to keep improving. The other teams are pushing us all the way as well, so it’s not going to be easy.
“But this is the start of the season we wanted and the way we need to approach the rest of the year.”
Pressed on what Järveoja would be emailing him about, Millener added: “Like he needs extra stuff in the recce car and for me to spend more money on things, and this kind of stuff.”
“Hopefully it doesn’t go to the junk mail!” Järveoja responded.
This exchange in the press conference after Tänak and Järveoja had just won the first rally of their M-Sport return was fascinating though – as light-hearted as it was.
It showed both just how hard Tänak and Järveoja are prepared to work, but perhaps more importantly just how perfect every single detail needs to be for the co-driver as well as the driver.
Millener was right to draw a comparison between Ogier and Tänak, but the same point absolutely spreads to the co-drivers too. Järveoja isn’t an in-your-face kind of character so most don’t know much about his personality or how he works, but it’s clear he is just as professional and regimented as arguably the greatest co-driver of them all: Julien Ingrassia.
And when Ogier and Ingrassia were at M-Sport, they ended both seasons as world champions.
That of course bodes well, but M-Sport’s 2023 championship chasers do face a tough ask as first on the road in México next month.
“Many people have got good results from first on the road and we know the challenges that come with that,” Millener pointed out, “but we shouldn’t start to make excuses or look for negatives as to starting first.
“I think we’ve got to look at the positives. We are starting first because we are leading the championship and that for us is the most important thing.
Regardless of whether Tänak and Järveoja manage to hold onto that position come the end of the season in Japan, you can be assured that both members of the crew will have poured absolutely everything into whatever season result they achieve.