Mon 13 Feb 2023

Millener: Tänak’s Sweden win the ‘perfect beginning’

Ott Tänak’s Rally Sweden victory has provided M-Sport Ford with the best possible early-season boost, says team principal Rich Millener.

There were emotional scenes in Umeå last weekend as Tänak and co-driver Martin Järveoja clinched victory at the FIA World Rally Championship’s second round, ending the four-day fixture 18.7sec clear of second-placed Craig Breen after a thrilling battle on snow and ice.

M-Sport had been eagerly anticipating this moment of triumph. Despite their efforts, the team had been unable to secure a victory for 385 days, dating back to Sébastien Loeb's win at Rallye Monte-Carlo in 2022. That is, until Sunday afternoon finally arrived, marking a historic moment for the British squad as it once again occupied the top step of the podium.

“We’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” Millener admitted. “It’s been over 12 months since we were last challenging for a win all weekend, and to win it in the way that Ott did really showed the speed of the car.

“What he was able to do, particularly from late Saturday afternoon through to Sunday, has been great to watch - and it’s great to celebrate with all the guys and girls after a tough year [in 2022].

“I think we’ve done the best we could possibly do here - we’ve got a win after two events. It’s the perfect beginning.”

Tänak’s result elevated him into the lead of the drivers’ championship, which means he’ll open the road next time out at Guanajuato Rally México (16 - 19 March). While that’s often seen as a disadvantage on the loose gravel fixture, Millener isn’t worried.

“I mean, people will already start talking about road position in Mexico but, for me, it’s irrelevant really,” he said. “You’ve got to take the points and the opportunities while you can, and our goals are to take it rally by rally.”

2019 world champion Tänak, who re-joined M-Sport at the beginning of this season after spells at Toyota and Hyundai, said his success was thanks to a true team effort.

“It obviously means a lot to me, to come into a new car and deliver to these guys,” the Estonian added. “It's a big effort for [M-Sport] to fight against such big manufacturers.

“I am sure they are getting quite a bit of stress from me, but as long as it's delivering then we are all winning. It's great to be part of this team."

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