M-Sport confident it can up its WRC game for Tanak

M-Sport is confident it can keep up with its factory World Rally Championship rivals Toyota and Hyundai in the development race to provide Ott Tanak an opportunity to challenge.

M-Sport confident it can up its WRC game for Tanak

The British squad endured a difficult 2022 campaign as the team fell behind its WRC rivals, recording only one victory and a total of three podiums across 13 events with its Ford Puma Rally1.

However, M-Sport has reshuffled its pack for 2023, signing 2019 world champion Tanak to lead its attack alongside Pierre-Louis Loubet, who has received a promotion to a full-time seat after an impressive 2022.

M-Sport team principal Richard Millener has openly admitted that his operation needs to up its game now it has signed Tanak, but remains confident, that despite the budget deficit to Toyota and Hyundai, the Ford Puma will be in the fight.

ANALYSIS: How M-Sport’s Christmas came early with Tanak WRC signing

“Signing Tanak has definitely lifted the mood in the workshop and the spirit,” Millener told Autosport.

“At the same time it brings its own challenges. We are going to have to up our game and we need to be the best we can be for Ott to have a chance of doing well next year.

“I don’t think there is anything major we need to be changing, but we need to make sure every little thing that we can do is correct, and we are as prepared as we can be for events.

“We are very close to that already but there are no opportunities to have any issues because you have to be consistent and pretty much score on every event.

“We are going to have to focus as best as possible and make sure everyone is aware of what we need to do and how to do it, and make sure all the protocols we have are in place to ensure we can get the best performance possible to Ott and to the whole team.

“It is not necessarily a change but making sure we have everything at the highest level. This was difficult to achieve this year but I hope with a fresh reset we can easily get there. We just need to do the work from now until Monte Carlo to do that.”

Ott Tänak, M-Sport

Ott Tänak, M-Sport

Photo by: M-Sport

Tanak told Autosport earlier this month that “there won’t be any limitation on the development side” which has left him confident the Puma will be capable of challenging the WRC’s elite.

Keeping up with the likes of factory teams is always a challenge, according to Millener, but he believes a clinical approach to car development will be key, while the recently confirmed reduction in testing from 30 to 21 days will also help M-Sport.

“That is always hard [keeping up with Toytoa and Hyundai],” he added. “The technical regulations are restrictive so there are ways to still be competitive because the technical restrictions stop you from doing everything too much.

“Obviously testing is decreased for everyone next year so everyone has got to be a bit more careful and clever about how they do their testing. That is going to help as well.

“I think we have got to keep developing as we have been and be very specific in the areas we do decide to develop in, versus the areas we don’t think are relevant for us.

“We don’t necessarily have all of the budget to try every single option and choose. We are just going to have to work extra hard from the physical testing to work out which elements and we will use or not.”

The 2023 WRC season begins next month in Monte Carlo from 19-22 January.

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