M-Sport eager for Rally Argentina
"There will be a lot of new stages this year"
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Elfyn Evans and Ott Tänak will be keen to get back behind the wheel of their Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta RS WRCs when the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) returns to Rally Argentina next week. Following a six week break, both are looking forward to battling the field in pursuit of a strong, confidence-building result.
The duo spent their Easter halt completing a number of extensive development tests with the new evolution Fiesta RS WRC, but there is no substitute for competition; the Argentine stages providing one of the most challenging competitions of the year.
This year’s route may have been highly revised, but the event has lost none of its daunting and intimidating character. Not only will the crews have to perfect the art of making new pacenotes – on speed tests littered with car-breaking obstacles – but they will also have to contend with two passes of two 50 kilometre stages as well as the vast contrast between three distinctively different days of rallying.
Fast, flowing stages through the Calamuchita Valley, rugged roads in the plains of the Punilla Valley, and narrow mountain tracks – Rally Argentina has it all. Finding a good rhythm is essential and driver and co-driver must work together in harmony if they are to master the tricky nature this notoriously difficult event.
Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt certainly have momentum on their side and the British pairing will be looking to maintain that trend as the team cross the Atlantic for the second time this year. The Welshman has shown an improvement on each of the three events contested so far and another clean event with no mistakes is in his sights as he prepares to take the next step in his development.
As well as conducting a number of evolution tests with the new Fiesta RS WRC, Evans has also been instrumental in the development of the all-new 1.0 litre Ford Fiesta R2. As Barritt swapped four wheels for two when he completed the Eden Valley Sportive with Beacon Bikes, Evans stayed behind the wheel to give the Fiesta R2 is competitive debut at Rally North Wales.
Tänak will also be looking for a solid result following what became one of the most publicised sporting incidents of the year at last month’s Rally Mexico. The Estonian’s Fiesta RS WRC – now fondly known as “TiTänak” – plummeted down the side of a steep embankment, coming to rest at the bottom of a reservoir.
Tänak and co-driver Raigo Mõlder escaped unharmed and the team affected the most miraculous repair in the history of the WRC. “TiTänak” has since undergone a full rebuild at M-Sport HQ and, having regrouped over the Easter break, the Estonians will be keen to get back on track – rebuilding their speed and confidence ahead of the more familiar European rounds.
Elfyn Evans said:
“I can’t wait to get back to the championship. It’s been a long break, but I think we had the best of both worlds. I got to spend some time at home, but both Ott [Tänak] and I have been really busy testing the new car. It’s looking really promising, but now I’m just looking forward to getting back to competition and hopefully having some good battles in Argentina.
“This will be a completely different rally to last year where the focus was purely on getting to the end of the event. While we still want to aim for a solid result, I hope that we can show a significant improvement from this time 12 months ago.
“There will be a lot of new stages this year but they’ll be new for everyone. In some ways that’s a good thing for us because those who would have had six or seven years of experience with the previous stages could have had a big advantage; but now it’s more of a level playing field.
“The new stages don’t really faze me – I got pretty used to making new pacenotes last year! The biggest challenge is the nature of the stages themselves. Each day is really different but there is always very little margin for error. There is always something on the side of the road to hit so you have to run a fairly clean rally for the majority and keep mistakes to a minimum.”
Ott Tänak said:
“This break has been too long for me and it’s made me really hungry to drive again. We did some testing with the new car after Mexico, but I can’t wait to be back competing again.
“The first thing we need to think about is getting a good feeling. Of course if the feeling is there, the temptation to push the limits is also there, but you really need to be clever on an event like Argentina.
“This isn’t a rally like Sweden or Finland where you can slide from one side of the road to the other. There is always something to hit and big stones are often dragged onto the road from the cars ahead. It’s an event where you need to keep your eyes open; you need to keep that margin and know which risks are the ones worth taking.
“It’s a big challenge, but one that I am really looking forward to. I hope we can have a good event and secure some more solid points before heading back to Europe.”
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