Tuesday | 25 Nov 2014

EXCLUSIVE: Tänak on his M-Sport comeback

Ott Tänak is back. Two years after being dropped by M-Sport at the end of an accident-prone 2012, the Estonian has been recalled as Elfyn Evans’ team-mate for 2015.

It’s another huge opportunity for the 26-year-old, a protégé of former Ford works driver Markko Martin, who returned to the championship this year in WRC2 with a more mature attitude and guided by new co-driver Raigo Mõlder.

Tänak spoke to wrc.com about his M-Sport return and why he feels so positive about the season ahead.

When you re-signed with M-Sport, you said you felt you had grown as a driver since 2012. What has changed?
OT: “The main thing is that I am more experienced. Definitely 2012 was not an easy year. It was my first season in a WRC car and maybe my expectations were too high. Right from the beginning I tried to keep the same pace as the top guys and that’s where the mistakes came. Then I got a bit stressed about having so many problems. It was difficult. But with age and experience you start to think a bit more. In driving it’s important to use your head. It’s not always flat out.”

And out of the car? You appear more relaxed and positive than you did before.
OT: “When I was away in 2013 I realised that I missed the WRC a lot. After two months, I was ready to do everything I could to get back in a car again! This year we managed that and it felt really good. I enjoyed every day. Also, with age I think I have become smarter. I feel I can control myself a bit and I understand how to do [the rallies] right – that’s another reason for the positive energy.”

This year you were reunited with your former co-driver Raigo Mõlder. How important was he to your performance?
OT: “He was important, but it wasn’t easy for him. This was his first season in WRC and there was a lot to learn. He improved a lot and I’m happy to see a guy next to me who is working just as hard as I am. He wants to win as much as I do. It’s not just about doing his job, he also wants to push himself and get good results.”
You and Elfyn will have equal team status in 2015, but the man you are replacing is Mikko Hirvonen. Does that increase the pressure?
OT: “Okay, there is definitely some pressure, but it’s nice to have that, it makes you work harder and push yourself a bit. I’ve spent a long time at M-Sport and I know all the guys there. I’m sure I will enjoy it a lot but, on the other side, we have to deliver results for the team as well. So yes, some pressure, but I like to work this way.”

What testing do you have planned before 2015?
OT: “We will start in mid December with a mixture of Monte Carlo testing with the current Fiesta and development work with the 2015-spec car. I’m sure it will be really busy. We haven’t driven the 2015-spec car yet. It will be introduced some time into the new season. For Monte Carlo the biggest change will be the paddle-shift gear selector.”

What is your goal for 2015?
OT: “In the beginning the plan is to get a good feeling with the car and the team. We start with Monte Carlo, which is one of the trickiest rallies. We just have to survive there because it’s so important to get experience. Next we get to Sweden and Mexico, and I think we have a good chance to do well on both. The rest of the rallies we know already and I’m ready to enjoy them all.”

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