Ott Tänak says a podium result on next weekend’s Monte Carlo Rally would represent a good start to his World Rally Championship reunion with M-Sport Ford.
Tänak was one of the key movers in the WRC driver market over the off-season, leaving Hyundai and the i20 N Rally1 behind to link up with M-Sport – the team that gave him his first shot in the WRC – and drive the Puma Rally1.
Of the four expected title contenders – along with Kalle Rovanperä, Thierry Neuville and Elfyn Evans – Tänak is the only one who has to learn a new car in 2023, but his initial feeling from both his Greystoke test and now his pre-Monte running in the Puma was positive.
“The test went actually quite well,” Tänak told DirtFish.
“I would say we were quite lucky with the weather, we got all kinds of weather so it was quite productive.
“The car is giving some good feedback and is reacting well, so it’s just about finding the set-up to find the optimum balance and also the peak performance.
“This is what it will be about, at least for the next rallies, it will be important to find this,” he added.
“For Monte, let’s say everything doesn’t need to be spot on but for the next rallies for sure we need everything to be perfect so they will be a bit more of a challenge maybe in the beginning.
“But as a base I would say the Puma is definitely not a tricky car.”
Tänak stressed that not having a base set-up to work from is “probably the most difficult part” of his adaption process.
“I need to start from scratch which is a big job, and obviously it’s difficult to get to a perfect set-up by one or one-and a-half days [of testing],” he explained.
“It’s obviously taking quite a bit of time and more mileage, definitely I would have enjoyed to do more but I mean in Monte it’s not mostly about the perfect set-up it’s some other things which are important.
“So still it was good to do these kilometers but for the next rallies as well, for Sweden and gravel rallies, we don’t have any base set-up so we need to start from zero and definitely it’s a bit of a challenge in the beginning to find the sweet spot.”
But considering the varied conditions that the Monte so often throws up, Tänak is sure he can overcome that limitation on round one.
Asked what result he would be happy with, whether it was a podium or even just a top six, Tänak quipped: “I really hope we can do better than top six, let’s see how it works!
“Even top six normally it still needs a good effort, but let’s say if we were on the podium we would be happy.
“The approach is actually we need some good points to start with. Hopefully we can make it work and let’s see. It seems like it’s not going to be the easiest Monte.
“The weather can interrupt and it can be interesting again like a proper Monte used to be, but let’s see.
“It’s going to be a challenging one and it would be nice to do a first rally with Puma just to get an idea where we are and where we need to improve.
“Like I said for sure the set-up still needs quite a bit of work.”
Tänak didn’t finish the Monte Carlo Rally in any of his three seasons at Hyundai, but scored three podiums on the bounce from 2017-19 in either M-Sport Ford or Toyota machinery.
His team-mate Pierre-Louis Loubet has never done the Monte in a Rally1 car, and M-Sport’s 2022 lineup from the event do not have set-ups to share and compare as none of them are currently with the team anymore.