M-Sport’s summer of speed continues in Finland
"Heading to one of the more enjoyable events of the year"
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Elfyn Evans and Ott Tänak continue their summer of speed next week as the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) embarks on what is arguably the highlight of the season – Rally Finland and the ’Gravel Grand Prix.’
Famed for its flat-out speed tests, the Finnish fixture is one the most eagerly anticipated events of the year and the return of one of rallying’s most legendary stages – Ouninpohja – is sure to make this year’s offering all the more exciting.
After the high-speeds of Poland, there will be no let-up in pace. Nine of the fastest ten WRC rallies on record have been recorded in Finland and the crews will need to muster all of their ’sisu’ – a Finnish phrase which loosely translate to ’having courage’ – if they are to master the fast straights, jumps and concealed corners that make this one of the most thrilling events of the year.
Split second decisions and minute set-up changes can make all the difference. Bravery and precision are a must. And an extensive pre-event test is of vital importance to best prepare the cars – and the crews – for this high-speed challenge.
In light of this, the team completed an extensive pre-event test with Reiger to unlock further performance from the suspension of the new Ford Fiesta RS WRC. With so many ’yumps’ – that’s Finnish for ’jumps’ – various damper configurations can provide a big advantage and the team focused on enhancing stability and traction which could prove crucial next week.
Having lost mileage with a water pump failure in Poland, Evans was particularly encouraged by the test as he and co-driver Daniel Barritt became accustomed to the nature of the Finnish roads.
Following a string of bad luck on the previous three events, the Welshman is keen to prove what he could have achieved in Poland and to showcase the progress he has made in the past 12 months.
Evans certainly knows what it takes to tame the Finnish stages having won the event as part of the FIA WRC Academy in 2012. As an event the Welshman enjoys, he’ll be keen to showcase his development and should have his eyes firmly fixed on the top-five.
In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Tänak is relishing the opportunity to continue his recent good form. The Estonian was the only man to challenge the dominant Volkswagens on the Polish speed tests and he’ll be looking to do the same again next week.
A lot will depend on what the Finnish summer has to offer in terms of weather and road condition, but a huge number of Estonians are expected to cross the Gulf of Finland in support of their latest hero and Tänak won’t want to let them down.
If the speed he and co-driver Raigo Mõlder displayed last year is anything to go by, their loyal band of supporters won’t be disappointed – the pairing regularly out-performing their world rally car rivals when they completed the event behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta R5 in the WRC’s premier support series.
Elfyn Evans said:
"Heading to one of the more enjoyable events of the year I am feeling good and ready to put our recent string of bad luck well and truly behind us. I want to prove what we were capable of in Poland, but more than anything I want to enjoy these amazing stages and really make the most of it.
"I got to experience Rally Finland for the first time with a world rally car last year and I have to say that it was an incredible experience. The high speed combined with the technical nature of the stages is incredible and when you hook-up a good rhythm to post a really good time, it’s a phenomenal feeling.
"But it’s not all fun and games. We know that the margins are very close in Finland and as the speeds are so high it’s very difficult to gain time on the leaders. There are so few opportunities to claw back any time loss so it’s important to get up to speed and be clean and tidy from the very beginning.
"Myself and Ott [Tänak] both had three days each of testing in preparation and the feeling is good. This is one of the highlights of the season and an extensive pre-event test is important for an event as specific as this one. There really isn’t anything else like it on the calendar and it is so important to fine-tune the cars – and the crews – for what is a very specific challenge."
Ott Tänak said:
"I’m really looking forward to Rally Finland. The speed is high, and if you have a good feeling in the car it is so enjoyable and so much fun to drive. We’ll work hard in the lead-up to the rally so that we have everything perfect and can hopefully get that feeling once again.
"I know that the bar has been set quite high after Poland, but the stages are very different in Finland. The speed is similar, but the roads themselves are a lot more technical with lots of jumps and crests which make it so important to always have the correct line. In Poland it was completely flat with almost no blind corners, but in Finland there is something happening all of the time and you really need to keep your focus.
"We had a really extensive test in which we have been able to fine-tune the car and I’m feeling fairly confident ahead of the event, but I know that we will need to push hard. The Volkswagens will all be very strong and I’m expecting a number of other crews to up their game as well. There’ll be no points from Poland in Finland and we’ll need to work hard to achieve the result we want."
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
"We were always targeting the second half of the season for a bigger push. The plan was for both drivers to get to the mid-point with a good base of experience and a good feeling in the car. Then, they could look towards results at the events that favour them a little bit more.
"It’s fantastic to see our plans taking shape, and for both drivers to have already secured a podium for the team – Elfyn [Evans] in Argentina and Ott [Tänak] last time out in Poland.
"Our plan will be the same for Finland. Being realistic, a win might be stretching it, but we want to see both drivers pushing to see what’s possible and although we will face strong competition from the other three manufacturers, I believe we have the pace to challenge for the podium."
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