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WRC Rally Croatia

Tanak: M-Sport WRC Puma sweet spot difficult to find

Ott Tanak says the M-Sport Ford Puma has a small operating window which has made finding its sweet spot difficult in World Rally Championship events.

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

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

The 2019 world champion once again showed flashes of speed in Croatia last weekend on his way to finishing second, 27s behind eventual winner Toyota’s Elfyn Evans.

Tanak finished fifth on debut driving the Puma in Monte Carlo in January, before going on to win on snow in Sweden in February.

Last month, the Estonian fought back from a mechanical issue to claim ninth on Mexico’s gravel stages, although he described himself and the car as a “mismatch”.

In Croatia, Tanak was able to set front-running pace at times, claiming two stage wins on the tricky asphalt tests, but struggled for consistency while battling a number of mechanical issues.

Although happy to be only four points adrift of the championship lead, the 35-year-old is urging his M-Sport team to push to unlock a more consistent pace from the car.

“The car has the pace, we can see that from the times, but the operating window seems very small and it has been difficult for me to understand where the sweet spot of the car is,” said Tanak.

“Up until now the team has been working very hard and I have managed to stay in touch with the competition, but we need to continue working hard on finding more so we can keep involved in this exciting battle for the championship.

“I am happy to be only four points off the lead of the championship and second this weekend is still a very good result along with the two stage wins.

“The test for Portugal is next week and now my focus turns to preparing as best as possible and working with the team to get us as prepared as possible for the next important event.”

Podium: Winner Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1, second place Ott Tänak, Martin Järveoja, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1, third place Esapekka Lappi, Janne Ferm, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Podium: Winner Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1, second place Ott Tänak, Martin Järveoja, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1, third place Esapekka Lappi, Janne Ferm, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

M-Sport team principal Richard Millener says the team will continue to push to assist its lead driver.

“For us, second place is a really good result - Ott showed some great speed and times in the car, but we still have some work to do to make him more comfortable in certain conditions," he said.

“I know the team will work as hard as they can on that but their hard work since the season began has paid off here.”

The championship returns to gravel roads next with a trip to Portugal from 11-14 May.

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