Ott Tanak claims first victory for M-Sport at Rally Sweden – Motorsport Week
Ott Tanak celebrated his first win with his new team and M-Sports first since last year’s Monte Carlo Rally. The Estonian survived a late scare to win by 18.7 seconds over Hyundai’s Craig Breen. A messed up team order resulted in the Irishman finishing 1.3 seconds ahead of Neuville.
Tanak started the final day by extending his lead over Breen to SS16. The Estonian managed an 11.6 second lead over his Hyundai rival despite suffering a minor scare at a braking point of the stage. However, Breen reacted in the next stage, overtaking Tanak by 3.1 seconds to cut the lead to 8.5 seconds.
In the battle for the final spot on the podium, Kalle Rovanpera closed the gap on Thierry Neuville with the advantage of starting on four fresh tires which paid off. 1.1 seconds separated the two on the final two stages of the rally. The Belgian responded by fitting fresh tires and winning the stage by 3.8s over Breen, but more importantly Neuville gained 6s over Rovanpera to widen the gap back to 7.1s
However, drama struck before the final stage when Breen received a 10-second time penalty for being a minute late for regrouping. That dropped the Irishman to third with his full-time teammate, with Neuville moving up to second ahead of the Wolf Power Stage.
Neuville was the first of the top three to finish the stage but made a mistake when he almost overshot a junction 8.7km into the test. This meant the probable team order that put Neuville ahead of Breen failed.
“It wasn’t a good stage. I was a bit afraid of braking and afraid of overshooting. We are here. It’s been an incredible weekend, a tough weekend but overall a great weekend for the team. All drivers did a good job and the car was fast. That’s the positive thing about this weekend.” commented Neuville at the finish.
This meant Breen finished 1.8 seconds ahead of his teammate and in second place. Breen was delighted with the result but admitted I wasn’t the plan going into the finals.
“It wasn’t the plan, but I had no way of knowing. We’re happy – it’s been an incredible weekend and great to be back at the front.” said Breen.
With Hyundai failing to place Neuville ahead of Breen and costing the Irish time, Ott Tanak only had to bring home victory in his first M-Sport Ford in just his second start.
“Obviously it means a lot to me to get into a new car and supply these guys at M-Sport. It’s a big effort for them to fight against such big manufacturers. I’m sure they get quite a bit of stress from me, but as long as it works, we all win. It’s great to be part of this team,” said Tanak.
Esapekka Lappi took the Power Stage honor followed by Elfyn Evans and Rovanpera with the top 5 covered by 0.8s.
- Tanak – +2 hr 25 min 54.5 s
- Breen – +18.7s
- Neuville – +20.0s
- Rovanpera – +25.1s
- Evans – +1min 24s
- Loubet – +5min 59s
Next, the teams travel on June 16th – 19th March, where Sebastien Ogier will return at the wheel of the Toyota GR Yaris Rally 1.