M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Ott Tänak and Pierre-Louis Loubet are geared up for the ninth round of the FIA World Rally Championship - taking to the wheel of the Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1 at this weekend’s Secto Rally Finland.
Known as the Gravel Grand Prix on account of its high-speed stages, Rally Finland and its countless full-throttle jumps requires something special – Rally Finland requires “Sisu,” a Finnish word which means stoic determination, bravery, resilience, persistence, and hardiness.
That’s what it takes to win in Finland, and the M-Sport squad have a lead driver who embodies it all – Ott Tänak, a three-time winner through the Finnish forests.
Robbed of a home victory last time out in Estonia, Tänak and co-driver Martin Järveoja are now fully focused on a comeback and spent a full day testing last week – getting back up to speed and resetting ahead of the one of the biggest weekends in rally.
Teammate Loubet has also enjoyed a full day of testing as well as entering last weekend’s HYAcenter Ralli in Tampere alongside Arnaud Dunand – building his confidence and increasing his knowledge before being reunited with regular co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul later this week.
Adrien Fourmaux and Grégoire Munster will also be back in action - contesting the WRC’s premier support series in a pair of EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta Rally2s.
Returning to the highly competitive WRC2 category, both drivers will take confidence from their recent victories - Fourmaux securing a coveted win at the famous Ypres Rally, and Munster claiming the Junior WRC victory last time out in Estonia.
With such a short break between Estonia and Finland, M-Sport’s dedicated team of engineers and technicians have also had a busy week – re-prepping the Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1s on location and extending their stay to maximise time and performance.
A total of 16 team members including technicians, engineers, fabrication specialists, parts coordinators, electrical technicians, sub-assembly technicians, engine engineers, engine technicians, hydraulics specialists and transmission technicians remained in Estonia to oversee the re-build before crossing the Gulf of Finland on Sunday – totalling for some, four weekends away from home.
Team Principal, Richard Millener, said:
“When you think of the World Rally Championship, you can’t help but think of Rally Finland. It’s smooth gravel and high-speed jumps are the highlight of the year for so many rally fans, and it really is a spectacular sight to see these cars flying through some of the sport’s most famous stages.
“Everyone was extremely disappointed after Estonia as Ott and Martin clearly had the speed to deliver a home victory. But we’ve put the disappointment behind us and will carry the positives forward to Finland – an event Ott has won on three previous occasions. He’s completed a full day of testing, and I know when he gets to Finland his mind will be fully focused on the task in hand.
“Pierre-Louis had a confidence-boosting drive in Estonia, and we’ve continued that with another full day of testing as well as a local rally in Finland last weekend. The extra seat time will only further his development, and we’re all keen to see how he progresses over the second half of the season.
“Finally, I need to praise the hard work and dedication of our engineers and technicians – some of whom will have spent four weekends away from home. With only a week between Estonia and Finland, the cars have been re-prepped on location and our team have extended their stay to ensure everything is ready for the Gravel Grand Prix.”
Ott Tänak, said:
"Finland generally is much more demanding event than Estonia. I’ve enjoyed driving there in the past and we have had some great performances in Finland before. Estonia was very tough and we couldn’t score points we needed from there unfortunately, but we still produced some good pace.
"Our focus is to find best possible feeling from Rally Finland shakedown and then we just push for the best possible result over the weekend!"
Pierre-Louis Loubet, said:
"I am happy to continue on to my third rally in three weeks, it's been a busy July! But it's given me a lot of driving time and I think we are well prepared for Finland. We drove in very hard conditions at the weekend in Tampere, and we are ready to take on Rally Finland. The target is to do a bit better than in Estonia, stay a bit closer to Ott in terms of pace and continue our progress in the car."
Adrien Fourmaux, said:
"Finland is a very fast, soft gravel rally, the stages are beautiful and its really nice to drive. It's a nice surprise for me to be here, it wasn't originally on my programme, so I'm taking it as a nice gift after a good start to the season! I really want to enjoy this rally and the experience of being in Finland again.
"Our BRC outings are really helping with our confidence as well as development of the car, which is all good for the WRC2 campaign. The goal for Finland is to take this experience and try to be in the fight for the podium, so we'll see where we can be. It'll be my first time in Finland in the Rally2, so it will be interesting and I'm really looking forward to it."
Grégoire Munster, said:
"Our victory in Estonia in JWRC will be a big help to us in Finland, the roads are quite similar and quite fast. It was good preparation to get in the rhythm for roads that we aren't so familiar with. There is a really strong competitor field in Finland, with lots of local, specialist drivers. It will be challenging but we're aiming for a good result, hopefully we can show some good speed against those guys who know these roads so well."
Published 31 July 2023