Tänak knocking on the door of a podium

Rally Italia Sardegna

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By Olivier Ferret

12 June 2015 - 23:50
Tänak knocking on the door of a (...)

M-Sport World Rally Team’s Ott Tänak is knocking on the door of a podium at this weekend’s Rally Italia having once again proven the huge potential he and the new EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta RS WRC possess. The Estonian currently holds a strong fourth place with team mate Elfyn Evans recovering to 10th position following an early driveshaft issue.

Rally Italia is notoriously difficult. The cars, the tyres, even the crews themselves are tested by the demanding nature of the stages but that didn’t stand in the way of Tänak showcasing his speed behind the wheel of the new EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

Like a number of his rivals, the Estonian opted for Michelin’s hard compound tyre for the morning loop. A mixed configuration was later proven to be the optimum choice, but the Fiesta driver was still able to set the third fastest time through ‘Grighine Nord 1’ (SS3) and was the fastest man on the hard compound by some margin through the opening stages.

During the second loop, he and co-driver Raigo Mõlder followed up an impressive performance with a stage win through ‘Sinis – Mont’e Prama’ (SS7) – their first of the season which puts Tänak’s career tally into double figures.

Reigning in their nearest rivals, the pairing were up to fourth position at the end of the day with all to play for through an arduous 212.83 kilometre route tomorrow.

In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Elfyn Evans was keen to secure more competitive mileage at the wheel of his new Fiesta RS WRC. Unfortunately, his bad luck continued and the Welshman was delayed by a broken rear-right driveshaft through the second stage of the morning (SS3).

Having to complete the remaining two stages with only two-wheel drive, he and co-driver Daniel Barritt lost three minutes to the leading pack. Making it back to service, the technicians were able to repair the damage and Evans worked to regain his confidence throughout the afternoon.

Climbing the leader board, the Brits will be keen to get into a good rhythm and affect further gains tomorrow.

Ott Tänak (4th) said:

“We were in a much better mood this afternoon and it was easier for Raigo [Mõlder, co-driver] because he had some experience from the morning stages. Okay we know that we still have a long way to go to be at our best, but we also know where we can improve.

“When we felt more comfortable, we pushed a bit more, and the times were good. It’s really encouraging to know that we can be fighting at the front when everything is right, but this is a rally where you have to know your limits and think about everything intelligently.

“It’s another really long and tricky day tomorrow so we just need to carry on like we have today. If we can improve the pace, of course we will, but first we need to focus on having a good rhythm and get everything working smoothly inside the car.”

Elfyn Evans (10th) said:

“It just hasn’t been our day today. We struggled this morning with what probably wasn’t the optimum tyre choice and then we had some issues with the car. But when we went back out this afternoon I just didn’t perform well. I didn’t feel comfortable and since the rhythm wasn’t there I got more and more frustrated which basically just made it worse!

“We need to look to tomorrow and see what we can do there. I need to learn from what we’ve done wrong today, but at the same time there’s no point dwelling on it. I know that I can perform better than what I have today, and that’s the objective for tomorrow.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:

“It’s been a great start for the new car with a stage win for Martin [Prokop] last night and again for Ott [Tänak] this afternoon – reaffirming the improvements we have made.

“Ott has had a really solid day and his fastest time was a real encouragement as we know he hasn’t felt comfortable today. It’s a difficult rally but it’s fair to say that it has been especially difficult for Ott and Raigo [Mõlder, co-driver] who have really struggled to get the rhythm into their notes.

“It’s great to see them sitting in fourth place at the end of the day, and if they continue like this tomorrow then they have a real chance of a very strong result. It will be another difficult day, but I have been very impressed with the way they have both coped with the challenges they’ve faced today.

“It’s been a tough start for Elfyn [Evans]. He had some technical issues with the driveshaft this morning and then this afternoon he struggled to find his confidence. The more he tried to force it, the less it came. He knows this and I know that he won’t dwell on today. He needs to start afresh tomorrow and just enjoy himself out on the stages.”

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