The Estonian, winner of the 2019 drivers’ championship with Toyota, announced his departure from Hyundai Motorsport earlier this year after his three-season stint with the Korean manufacturer failed to produce any further titles.
In the latest development to the 2023 driver market, M-Sport Ford - the team which gave Tänak his first shot at rallying’s top level - has confirmed he will spearhead its charge in 2023.
In 2011, a young Tänak made his debut in a WRC support category with M-Sport machinery, going on to claim his maiden WRC podium with the team only 12 months later. He came to form in 2016, narrowly missing out on a maiden victory when a stunning display of speed was cut short by a puncture on the penultimate stage of Rally Poland.
The 2017 season finally saw the Estonian’s rise to eminence with the blue oval as he claimed his maiden WRC victory on Rally Italia Sardegna followed by a victory on the asphalt of ADAC Rallye Deutschland before jumping ship to rivals Toyota at the end of the year.
Tänak will drive all 13 rallies on the 2023 calendar and will be partnered, as usual, by co-driver Martin Järveoja. However, his team-mates for the season are still yet to be confirmed.
"M-Sport is the place that raised me as a driver and the place that taught me all the hard lessons and experience to become a top level player in the World Rally Championship," said Tänak. "Since becoming a world champion I have not been able to defend the title, and I will not be able to make peace with myself until I do!
"I have had many discussions with Malcolm and we definitely share the same ambition for the upcoming season. It is going to be a big challenge for us, but I know the people at Dovenby Hall, I know what they are capable of and with their passion to give everything they have, we can challenge for the championship."
M-Sport Managing Director Malcolm Wilson confirmed Tänak has already tested the Puma. He said: “He has been to Dovenby to view our facilities and test the Puma in Greystoke Forest. It is fair to say from Ott’s initial feedback that we are confident we can challenge for the world championship in 2023.
"It fills me with tremendous happiness and joy to see Ott back here with us at Dovenby Hall. I have followed his career closely since his junior days and I’m very proud to have been a part of his achievements in the last decade."
Team principal Rich Millener echoed Wilson's comments - adding that the target is to help Tänak secure his second world title.
“Seeing Ott back in M-Sport overalls will be a significant moment for everyone at Dovenby Hall," Millener admitted. "The aim for 2023 is clear for us and for Ott; to win the 2023 drivers’ championship.
"To achieve this goal together will require a lot of hard work and energy, but we are prepared and ready for this challenge. Having a driver like Ott on board is key to lifting the spirits and desires of the team to realise our full potential and push forward in 2023."