M-Sport team principal Richard Millener says Rally Sweden winner Ott Tänak’s work ethic reminds him of Sébastien Ogier, who won two World Rally Championship titles with the team in 2017 and ’18.
Tänak took only two rallies to claim his first victory in the Ford Puma Rally1 after rejoining M-Sport this winter, ending the squad’s year-long wait for a top-class WRC win.
Ogier only drove for M-Sport for two years, but made an instant impact on the debut of the last generation of World Rally Cars at the 2017 Monte Carlo Rally. He took victory first time out, snapping a winless streak for the team that stretched back to 2012.
The 2017 Ford Fiesta WRC was fast and reliable straight out of the box and Ogier received plenty of plaudits from within the team for the way he had pushed them forward.
It is a similar drive combined with the gravitas a world champion brings that Millener can see in Tänak, who rejoined M-Sport after a difficult three years at Hyundai.
Tänak last drove for the team alongside Ogier in 2017, scoring his breakthrough first win on Rally Italy that year, before switching to Toyota with whom he became world champion in 2019.
“Ott did a fantastic job,” Millener told DirtFish in Sweden.
“He’s made it clear there’s still some things he wants to tweak to make it more comfortable for him, which we will continue to work on as hard as we possibly can.
“I think every calibre of athlete like he is is always looking for perfection,” he added. “There will always be something.
“He reminds me a little bit of when we had Ogier in the team. He’d work very, very hard to solve the problems he had, he’d solve them, and then he’d find some more.
“You’re never going to run out of things to change. But the key is to find a balance in between and do everything you can to give the guys the tools they need.”
It is no secret that M-Sport’s status as an independent team means it does not have the financial clout of the full works outfits it competes against in the WRC. It was a stretch for the team to sign Tänak to lead its 2023 line-up.
M-Sport’s constraints mean it is currently running only two cars that score points towards the manufacturers’ championship. Its focus is therefore squarely on providing Tänak with a car capable of delivering his second title and proving the Puma’s worth.
So far, the drive, determination and professionalism that Tänak has brought means that approach appears to be paying off.
“We needed a lot of effort to sign him for exactly those reasons, because we know what he’s capable of,” said Millener.
“I think it’s great to see the car doing what we knew it could do, and there’s a few people that were always open to critiquing the car in various areas, but I think this is one of the fastest rallies on the calendar. So to show where we are I think gives a strong indication of how good the car is as well.”