M-Sport, Ott Tänak and Pierre Louis-Loubet prepare to take on the high-speed roads of Estonia next week in a pair of Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1s. The team are fully focused on achieving a strong result to support their drivers’ championship ambitions.
Having passed the season’s halfway mark during Safari Rally Kenya, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team now prepare themselves for a tough battle through the FIA World Rally Championship’s remaining six rounds.
Despite the event being a relatively fresh face in the championship, only making its WRC debut in 2020, Rally Estonia is by no means a mystery to Tänak. With a total of four victories both inside and outside the WRC, Tänak will hope to capitalise on his knowledge and confidence of his home event, pushing for a top points finish.
After a sequence of rough and brutal gravel events, the upcoming Estonia and Finland rallies represent the smooth, fast and more technical part of the season that suits Tänak so well. Claiming third in the 2022 edition, the Estonian will look to emulate this pace and put on a show for his wide fanbase in the country.
The team is now about to enter its most critical period of the season, Rally Estonia and Rally Finland effectively sit back-to-back on the calendar, making the logistics of pre- and post-event preparations more challenging. M-Sport will not bring the cars back to the UK between events due to limited time, so instead will do all the necessary rebuild work on the move.
In order to be a match fit for the two fast gravel surfaces, both Tänak and Järveoja, and Loubet and Gilsoul completed a full one-day test each last week, achieving over 500km of testing between them. Tänak also competed on and took victory at Lõuna-Eesti Ralli last weekend. The team is now analysing the data and knowledge gained to fine-tune and prime the cars for a strong showing next week.
With an additional year’s worth of experience in the Puma, Pierre-Louis Loubet heads out to Rally Estonia having competed all-three WRC appearances of the event since 2020. The Frenchman will use this knowledge, and proven pace on gravel, to build towards his coveted maiden podium that he hopes to achieve this year.
On a rally where small mistakes have big repercussions on pace, both Tänak and Loubet will hope for clean runs across Estonia’s famous jumps and crests to land themselves in the fight for the top spots.
Richard Millener, Team Principal, said:
“Compared to the last event in Kenya, Estonia is a completely different challenge. It’s one of the fastest events in the season, and this year one of the most important for us – the home event of Ott. We know we will have huge Estonian support over the course of the weekend. We have put a lot of effort into preparing as best as we can for the rally with the pre-event test and Lõuna-Eesti Ralli. It would be fantastic to see Ott do well at home, and that is of course the goal for the rally. I also believe Pierre will be in a strong place here, with good experience of the event over the last three years. Estonia is such a beautiful and fantastic country – I can’t wait to get back there.”
Ott Tänak, said:
"We've had some quite intense preparations; we did a pre-event test and then a small event, so it's been a big effort to make it as good as possible for Estonia. Obviously, the next two events are purely about performance, so we're putting everything into it and we'll find out how close we get to the others.
"Now we are going into the second half of the season we're definitely not letting the championship go, so we feel like we need to increase our game and put everything in. It's going to be a short turnaround to Finland, so if something isn't quite working in Estonia the week in between will be flat out, but hopefully in Estonia we will be on a good level already."
Pierre-Louis Loubet, said:
“There are a lot of changes to be made ahead of this kind of rally. It’s almost the complete opposite of what we saw in Kenya and some of the previous rallies which have been very rough! We can expect Estonia’s road to be very clean and very fast.
“We will be making a lot of changes to make to the car’s settings; the ride height, the dampers, everything really. I’m looking forward to it, it’s definitely one of the most enjoyable events of the season. Because of the high speeds on straights and on corners and everywhere, it’s really a great event for these Rally1 cars to showcase their speed. We will try to enjoy it and hopefully achieve a good result!”
Images by Janne Veetõusme
Published 14 July 2023