Ott Tänak and Martin Jarveoja claim their first victory with M-Sport Ford World Rally Team and the Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1 in 2023 after an exemplary drive in Sweden this weekend.
On only his second FIA World Rally Championship outing in the Puma, Tänak claims his second Rally Sweden victory and his first win with M-Sport since 2017.
The Estonian pair now lead both the drivers’ and co-drivers’ championships after their historic win helped by claiming an additional two points in the dramatic final Power Stage.
The dream win for the M-Sport team comes after a phenomenal performance from Tänak, who stayed locked in a tight battle for the top-spot throughout the weekend, not once dropping lower than second overall in the standings.
Taking the rally lead on Friday morning, Tänak’s commitment never wavered despite still learning the ways of his new car in what were tricky stages, and particularly rough on the second pass. Showcasing his talent, he would take his maiden stage win behind the wheel of the Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1 in SS7, the cut-up surfaces of the afternoon loop not holding him back in the slightest.
Saturday would see the Estonian pairing chasing a 2.6 second deficit to Breen, and the team would watch with bated breath while as times came in throughout the day. SS14 would see Tänak put on an almighty charge, being nearly 14 seconds quicker than Breen, but a puncture towards the end of stage hampered his otherwise perfect run. Despite the issues his raw speed was still enough to see him take the lead at the end of the penultimate day of rallying.
Sunday morning would see Tänak extend his lead to a comfortable 11.6 seconds, allowing him to hold the top spot going into the Power Stage and see him bring home the win for the M-Sport team.
On only their second event together after being reunited, Tänak’s win has delivered the team and their lead driver a very special victory. Tänak’s weekend performance speaks to not only his own, undisputed talent, but the power and capabilities of the Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1.
Tänak’s teammate, Pierre-Louis Loubet made impressive progress on a surface otherwise unfamiliar to him. Setting competitive splits throughout Friday, culminating in a fantastic second-fastest time in SS5, the young French talent continued to build confidence on snow-and-ice as the rally progressed. A technical issue on the final Power Stage meant he dropped time, but still hung on to sixth place and scored some deserved points to get his championship attack back on track.
In the fiercely competitive WRC2 category, Robert Virves showed very impressive pace in his first outing in the Fiesta Rally2 with M-Sport, a very strong start to his JWRC prize-winner’s campaign.
The team will now take home it’s silverware to Dovenby Hall, alongside the memories of an action-filled weekend, and now focus fully and look forward to the challenges of the next round in Mexico.
Ott Tänak, First Overall, said:
“It’s quite impressive, not so bad at all. When we came into the rally, we didn’t really know what to expect. In the build up to the rally we understood that we were never going to be the fastest, but we’re happy to have kept our average pace pretty high and alongside the other guys.
“As a team, we made sure we didn’t have any bad stages and didn’t lose any time anywhere; that was the key. Sweden is unique, we only rally here once a year. It’s the same for Mexico, and opening the road there can’t be a big advantage! It’s a great start to the championship, probably more than we expected. For sure we can improve a lot, and the plan is to pick up the pace.”
Pierre-Louis Loubet, Sixth Overall, said:
“I first want to say a huge congratulations to Ott, Martin and the rest of the team. This weekend has been a huge achievement for M-Sport and I am very glad to be a part of it.
“I think I have a lot of positives to take from this weekend; Friday was a good day and we spent a lot of time on the pace of the guys at the front. We also achieved a second-fastest time, and considering I don’t have a lot of experience on snow-and-ice, I think we can be very happy with this. Sometimes we lacked the confidence to really push the car, and this is where we lost some time, but overall I am happy. It was a challenge but we have learnt a lot,and now we look forward to a different challenge in Mexico.”
Richard Millener, Team Principal, said:
“This weekend has been another one of those dream weekends. To come here and not be too sure of where we would be placed, and to come away from this event with the win is something that is really special for us all. The pace this weekend from all the crews has been so close, so to take the overall victory just makes this extra special.
“We all knew that Ott and Martin were capable of this speed and results, so to see it come to fruition on only the second event of the season is even more exciting. I cannot wait for the next event in Mexico already.
“I want to extend a special thank you to all our WRC team sponsors, particularly Ford and Red Bull, for their support throughout the Rally1 programme and in the lead-up to the 2023 season.
“I want to, as always, thank everyone in the team who have played their part, and kept working to the highest levels possible to make sure we were going to be competitive. Seeing them celebrate on the podium this afternoon is a real money cannot buy experience.”
Published 12 February 2023