Speed goes unrewarded for M-Sport
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Elfyn Evans and Ott Tänak experienced all the highs and lows of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) at this year’s Rallye Deutschland. The Ford Fiesta RS WRC drivers displayed some pace-setting speed, but it went unrewarded at the first pure asphalt event of the year.
Evans had the potential to challenge for the top positons this weekend, but he was unable to sustain his impressive pace over the course of the whole rally.
In the cooler morning temperatures, he and co-driver Daniel Barritt were the only crew to consistently split the leading Volkswagens. Setting the second fastest time on SS9 and the third fastest time on SS19, they were also the fastest crew through SS18 – making Evans the only man other than Sebastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala to secure a stage win.
Unfortunately, the M-Sport man was unable to maximise the available grip in the unseasonably high temperatures that blighted the afternoon speed tests – an issue which demoted him to sixth place overall.
Despite failing to reach their true potential, M-Sport drew strength from the fact that Evans has the speed to challenge for the podium on asphalt.
There will be some hard work behind the scenes to ensure that the team’s pace can be maintained over the course of a full weekend, and they’ll be looking to make another vital step forward on the next sealed-surface event in Corsica.
In the sister Fiesta RS WRC, Tänak was enjoying his first taste of a world rally car on Tarmac since this time three years ago. There was a lot to learn and the Estonian was swiftly reminded of how much respect these challenging stages demand.
Having been caught-out by an unexpected patch of gravel on the opening speed test, he and co-driver Raigo Mõlder were lucky to escape with mere cosmetic damage.
Following that time loss, the pairing focused on determining the optimum set-up and were able to increase their pace significantly over the second pass – posting the fourth fastest time through SS14 as well as the points-paying Power Stage (SS21).
Experimenting with various set-up configurations, Tänak has gained the experience that should see him enhance his asphalt performance. Before then however, he’ll be looking forward to putting all that he has learnt on gravel to the test when the WRC reconvenes in Australia next month.
Elfyn Evans (6th) said:
“I can’t say I’m satisfied with the rally as a whole, but there were a lot of positives and I was certainly satisfied with our performance on a couple of individual stages. We came very close to winning two stages – and we did win one – but we didn’t get everything 100 percent right this weekend.
“In the mornings the pace and the feeling in the car was good but as the temperatures increased, we just didn’t seem able to keep that same speed. It’s clearly something we need to work on, but the potential is there and we know we can be challenging for the top positions when everything is right.
“I’m sure there’ll be a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes as we prepare for Corsica, and we hope that will result in us fighting towards the very top when the championship returns to Tarmac in October.”
Ott Tänak (8th) said:
“I knew before the start that this would be a tricky event for us as we haven’t driven a world rally car on pure Tarmac for quite a long time. Also this was the first event with the new car on this surface so there was always going to be a lot to learn and a lot to discover throughout the weekend.
“I didn’t feel as confident or as natural with the driving as I have more recently on gravel so I had to push myself and we made a couple of small mistakes because of that.
“Today we didn’t have much to push for so we just played around with the set-up and actually found quite a few things so that was good. There’s been an improvement and we have collected some good data for the next Tarmac rallies where there’s no doubt we can improve.”
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“I think it’s fair to say that we expected a little bit more from this weekend, but we didn’t get everything 100 percent perfect and that’s something we need to work on ahead of Corsica.
“When Elfyn felt confident in the car, his pace was extremely strong and there’s no doubting the huge potential he and the Fiesta have on this surface. This event was completely dominated by Sebastien [Ogier] and Jari-Matti [Latvala]; so for Elfyn to be the only other driver to secure a stage victory just goes to prove how strong that potential is.
“There will be a lot of hard work behind the scenes as we prepare for the next Tarmac event. We know that we have the speed, we just need to ensure that we have everything in place to sustain it over the course of a full weekend.”
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