Amid the surprise of Jari-Matti Latvala’s Rally Sweden victory last weekend, Ott Tänak delivered further evidence that his maiden WRC win could be just around the corner.
The Estonian could not match Latvala’s pace during their final day shootout on the snow and ice roads, but a hat-trick of fastest times on Saturday morning thrust the 29-year-old Ford Fiesta driver into victory contention for the second time in two rallies.
He has now finished on the podium three times in the last four rounds, a run that began with second place in Britain last year and continued with third at Rallye Monte-Carlo last month.
Tänak is in his third stint with M-Sport, having twice been dropped by team manager Malcolm Wilson. Having played a major role in the development of the new-era Fiesta, he knows the car well and has formed a strong early season partnership with Sébastien Ogier.
“It’s been a great start to the season and I have a really good feeling with the car,” he said. “We’ve got a great package to build on and, although there is still some work to do behind the scenes, we’re ready to give it another big push in Mexico next month.”
Tänak had plenty to learn, running near the front of the start order in the opening leg for the first time after his Monte-Carlo podium.
“I had a new experience opening the road on Friday but when the conditions were more equal on Saturday we had some really good speed. I’m happy with that and what we achieved last weekend has given us a lot of confidence.
“On Sunday, we knew straight away that Jari-Matti would be hard to beat. At the beginning of the first stage we knew we didn’t have the same feeling as on Saturday.
“It was a bit disappointing at the time, knowing that we had no option but to settle for second, but I’m still really happy with my weekend,” added Tänak, who has helped M-Sport build a 20-point lead in the manufacturers’ championship.