Tänak in intense battle for Polish podium
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Ott Tänak is right in the fight for the top positions at this weekend’s Rally Poland. Currently holding third place, the Estonian has delivered his best ever performance behind the wheel of a world rally car and is on course to secure his best result of the year.
Continuing to showcase the power and performance of the new Ford Fiesta RS WRC, Tänak was on top-form through the fast gravel stages. Setting two fastest times through the opening loop, he was thoroughly enjoying the high-speeds and edged out Volkswagen’s Jari-Matti Latvala to regain a podium position.
His good form continued into the afternoon – another fastest time bringing his tally to six and extending his lead over the Finn. Clearly excited by the intense battle, the spirited Estonian had some playful, yet select, words for his rivals which loosely translated to, “don’t forget, we’re here, and we’re fast!”
Finding confidence in himself and the Ecoboost-powered Fiesta, Tänak was never more than 3.8 seconds adrift of the fastest time on each of today’s eight speed tests. Establishing themselves as real contenders for the remainder of the season, he and co-driver Raigo Mõlder find themselves a mere 17.6 seconds adrift of the lead after more than 260 competitive kilometres.
There was however less good fortune for the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC of Elfyn Evans as the Welshman was forced to retire with a water pump failure on the liaison to SS11. As a tried and tested part carried over from the previous car, it was a bitter blow for Evans who was gearing himself up for a big push through today’s stages.
The Welshman had displayed a vast increase in pace from this time twelve months ago. The lack of a pre-event test certainly wasn’t standing in the way of the M-Sport drivers showcasing their potential and Evans outshone a number of his more experienced rivals through yesterday’s opening loop.
A soft tyre selection halted his progress and relegated him down the field in the afternoon, but he came back this morning determined to make amends. The pace looked to be there. Despite losing time with a stall on the start line of SS10, he was faster than a number of his rivals and dropped just 0.7 seconds to fellow Brit Kris Meeke.
Unfortunately, there would be no chance to show what he was truly capable of. Unable to resolve the issue with the water pump, he and co-driver Daniel Barritt were left with no option but to restart under Rally 2 regulations tomorrow.
Ott Tänak (3rd) said:
“It feels so good to be in the fight. Everyone wants to win and everyone is pushing as hard as possible so the fact that we are so close to the lead is really good and really positive for the rest of the season.
“I’ve had good results in the past, but never anything like this. We’ve been able to show pace throughout the whole rally so far and I think it’s definitely my best performance to date. I’m enjoying every single stage and just loving being behind the wheel.
“But we need to stay focused. The rally is not over yet and Jari-Matti [Latvala] will be pushing tomorrow, there’s no doubt about that! We just have to keep pushing too.”
Elfyn Evans (Rally 2) said:
“They say bad luck happens in threes so hopefully that’s the end of it now! Our rally came to an end pretty early on today with a water pump failure before SS11. It’s just one of those things – another tried and tested part carried over from the previous car – and we just have to move on and put it behind us.
“I feel as though our pace was more or less in the ball park. There is still some work to be done for sure and the stall on the start line [on SS10] didn’t help, but I felt as though we could have achieved the speed we were looking for this weekend. Unfortunately we haven’t had chance to prove that, so let’s try and prove it in Finland.”
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Over the past two days there is no doubting that we have witnessed Ott [Tänak] and Raigo’s [Mõlder, co-driver] best ever performance. They’ve been quick throughout and withstood the pressure from Jari-Matti [Latvala] who is a vastly more experienced competitor.
“Their performance proves the steps forward that we have made with the new car along with the experience Ott and Raigo have gained over the past six months.
“There may only be 30 kilometres tomorrow, but it won’t be easy and we have the potential for a thrilling finale with four crews capable of taking the spoils.
“Unfortunately for Elfyn [Evans] he suffered an electric water pump failure. It was really frustrating as it was a carry-over part that has been on the car since 2011. Thankfully there wasn’t much damage as Elfyn and Dan [Barritt, co-driver] were sensible enough to turn the engine off straight away.
“They’ll be back out tomorrow, but I know that Elfyn will be extremely frustrated as he was keen to show what he was capable of today.
“I’m not superstitious, but they say that bad things come in threes and this is three events of bad luck for him now so I hope that he can move forward in Finland and start to plan for the rest of the season.”
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