Thursday | 08 Dec 2022

What Tänak’s return means for M-Sport

It’s like he never left. Ott Tänak’s return to M-Sport Ford World Rally Team feels as absolutely right as it felt absolutely inevitable.

Tänak and co-driver Martin Järveoja lead the British team’s assault on the 2023 World Rally Championship, with the Estonians making it clear they have just one ambition: to repeat their world title of 2019. 

To achieve as second crown would be an outstanding achievement, but to do it with Malcolm Wilson’s team would top what’s already been an incredible – if topsy-turvy – time with M-Sport already.

Tänak cut his WRC teeth in an M-Sport-prepared Fiesta and remained with Wilson’s team until the end of 2017. It’s well documented that things didn’t always run smoothly, with Ott dropped at the end of 2012, only to return full time in 2015. 

While it wasn’t all plain sailing from there, the results duly arrived and 2017 wins in Italy and Sardinia were the launchpad for negotiations which would eventually take him to Toyota and subsequently to Hyundai.

But this is about the future – and by definition, the past. 

When he departed M-Sport, Tänak was a junior driver (admittedly, junior to then five-time world champion Sébastien Ogier) who had just broken his duck. Now he’s a fully-fledged legend of our time; a world champion and one of the fastest drivers on planet earth.

It’s time for Tänak to finish the job he started behind the Blue Oval. The big question is, of course: can he?

Why not?

If the second half of this season taught us anything, it taught us that Ott Tänak is back to his very, very best. He outscored everybody from Finland onwards and looked as dangerous as ever as his Hyundai i20 N Rally1 came on song. 

And we know what a potent force M-Sport’s Puma Rally1 Hybrid is. Fastest out the blocks with a Sébastien Loeb-orchestrated round one win at Rallye Monte-Carlo, the Ford remained a threat throughout the season. 

Next season that threat will be more real than ever as one of rallying’s favourite partnerships rides again.

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