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WRC Rally Estonia

M-Sport: Tanak’s WRC Estonia drive “probably his best” for team

M-Sport team principal Richard Millener says Ott Tanak’s recovery drive at Rally Estonia was “incredible” and “probably his best” for the Ford World Rally Championship squad.

Ott Tänak, Martin Järveoja, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1

Tanak has largely dominated the times to claim six of the event’s eight stages to date, winning five of Friday’s seven tests including a clean sweep of the morning loop.

The performance would have translated into a rally lead had the 2019 world champion avoided a five-minute penalty for an engine change on Thursday before the rally begun.

Tanak’s stirring effort in difficult circumstances has resulted in the Estonian climbing the leaderboard from 48th to 11th overall, 4m47.0s adrift of leader Kalle Rovanpera and one place outside of the points paying positions.

While admitting the result is bittersweet, Millener heaped praise on his driver, who produced a string a stage wins despite not feeling 100% comfortable behind the wheel of the Ford Puma.

This season marks Tanak’s second spell with the British squad having made his WRC debut with the team in 2011 before enjoying spells at Toyota and Hyundai prior to his return to M-Sport.

“It is good to see that the car performance is high. I’m sure he was driving over the limit without a doubt, and even not feeling 100% comfortable, we have to take our hats off to Ott,” Millener told Autosport.

“It has been an incredible drive. It is hard to take as we would be leading the rally but we can’t look at it that way as it is never going to change.

Ott Tänak, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team

Ott Tänak, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team

Photo by: M-Sport

“It was aggressive and controlled and it was probably one of his best drives for us, if not the best.

“It is great to see and it was nice to hear some of the comments that he felt a little bit confident in the car in certain conditions. The guys have been working very hard to find him more comfort in the car.

“There is some work to do in other surfaces but it is little bit comforting to see we would have been leading the rally had we not had the issue.

“Hopefully it is a good test towards Finland. The championship is going to be very difficult now but there is still a few events left and if we can win a couple more this year, it would be nice. We are not going to stop or give up.

“It has been a tricky season I guess and we are up against two very powerful teams. These things happen and we are just trying our best to stay competitive as we have seen here but the penalty has screwed us.”

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Tanak, who described the penalty as “a kick in the balls” on Thursday, didn’t completely agree with Millener’s assessment, but admitted his drive “wasn’t bad” considering rivals Toyota and Hyundai have introduced performance upgrades to their cars this year.

“I would say the first loop this morning was more like a stupid push,” Tanak told Autosport.

“If I was doing the rally in the correct way this would not have been the case. We struggled a bit in the afternoon in the ruts and we struggle a bit to do the set-up we wanted to do, but in the last stages we were in a good place.

“I would say [my win in] Sweden [this year] was quite good but for the rest of the season we have been really struggling.

“We have worked hard but we have seen Hyundai and Toyota doing their engine upgrades and pushing the power but on our side we haven’t done anything. Considering this, we are not doing too bad.”

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