Massive result… for the WRC
This was a big deal for Tänak, who chose to quit the Hyundai team at the end of last season despite scoring three victories as the closest challenger to Kalle Rovanperä. He would have been a huge loss to the WRC if he hadn’t landed a drive, so there were sighs of relief all round when M-Sport found the financial means – against its own expectations – to clinch a deal with the Estonian, who previously rallied for the Cumbrian team between 2011 and ’17.
Last year, in the first season of the new hybrid Rally1 regulations, the new Puma had got off to a storming start thanks to a fantastic cameo from WRC legend Sébastien Loeb, who returned to the series for the Monte Carlo Rally and won the first event of the new era. But thereafter, M-Sport’s season tailed off into one of disappointment and frustration. The signing of Tänak has given the team a chance to prove that with a top driver its Puma can be a contender – and the Swedish performance, for a first win since Loeb’s Monte win just over a year ago, underlined that as fact.
The team only receives a limited amount of support from Ford compared to the full factory Toyota and Hyundai squads, yet appears set to make it a full three-way duel for the title this year. Great news for Tänak, great news for M-Sport – and even better news for the WRC.
“It obviously means a lot to me, to come into a new car and deliver to these guys [at M-Sport].” Tänak said. “It's a big effort for them to fight against such big manufacturers.
“I am sure they are getting quite a bit of stress from me,” added the famously high-maintenance ace. “But as long as it’s delivering then we are all winning. It’s great to be part of this team.”