Ott Tänak believes he can be a regular contender for rally wins next season after matching his career-best result with second place at Dayinsure Wales Rally GB on Sunday.
He won 12 of the 22 forest speed tests in his Ford Fiesta RS and was the only driver to challenge Sébastien Ogier as the Frenchman claimed his first gravel victory of the WRC campaign.
Tänak slashed Ogier’s lead of more than half a minute to 10.2sec by the finish. But for a broken intercom, damaged suspension and a puncture earlier in the event, the final day battle between the pair could have gone down to the wire.
The Estonian is expected to be named as M-Sport World Rally Team’s lead driver next season and feels he can be regarded as a regular frontrunner when the new-generation World Rally Cars hit the stages.
“That’s the plan. My second season is coming to an end and experience really counts in this sport. I start to be more consistent with less mistakes and keeping the speed up – this looks good for the future. The main thing is to have a strong car for next year, I’m sure we can be competitive,” he said.
His hopes of a maiden WRC win were dashed when a penultimate stage puncture cost him the lead at 73rd PZM Rally Poland in July. He felt comfortable in the Welsh forests and was buoyed by his pace.
“For sure there were some happy days,” he said. “The last couple of rallies we have struggled a bit, but I enjoyed to be back in the battle. I felt the excitement in myself. Friday we had some tricky conditions and some small issues, it was really challenging for everybody.”
Ogier confirmed Tänak’s pace meant he could not afford to ease his pace until yesterday afternoon’s finish was in sight.
“A lot of people think we managed the gap, but we pushed the whole way. OK, maybe the last three stages I backed off a little, but we finished only with 10 seconds lead. It was definitely big pressure from Ott,” said the four-time world champion.