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Tue 25 Jul 2023

Millener reveals more on Tänak’s engine woes

Ott Tänak would have been penalised regardless of whether M-Sport Ford had changed his Puma’s engine before or after the Rally Estonia shakedown, team principal Richard Millener has revealed.

In line with FIA regulations, home hero Tänak was hit with a five-minute time penalty before the rally had even started when his M-Sport Ford squad carried out an engine change after Thursday morning’s shakedown.

Some sources suggested that the British team was already aware of a potential problem last Wednesday and, while Millener confirmed that to be true, he explained that replacing the engine a day earlier would have had no effect on the eventual outcome.

“I think there’s been a bit of a misunderstanding from some of the people that have read the comments,” Millener told WRC.com. “Yes, there were a few things we noticed after scrutineering [on Wednesday] that potentially concerned us so we spent the whole day checking and changing anything we could to make sure everything was covered.

“Ultimately, the potential issue was spotted after scrutineering, so it didn’t matter if we changed the engine before shakedown or after shakedown - the penalty was the same. You would never, on the off chance, take five minutes and find out it was actually fine.

“The strategy was always to go to shakedown to see what happened because we weren’t sat there going, ‘100 per cent there’s a problem here’. We went to shakedown and, okay, that proved we needed to change it, but there was never any discussion about not changing the engine because of cost or anything like this,” he said.

Millener added that, while Tänak knew of a potential issue before starting shakedown, he was not told until Thursday morning so as not to inflict unnecessary stress on his pre-event preparations.

“We didn’t inform him the day before [shakedown] because he was in the recce and doing his notes, and you don’t need to add any extra pressure to him when we are working to see what we can do.

“I think the communication in the team is strong between everything but there’s a time and a place to inform people what’s going on. There’s no point in putting unnecessary anxiety into somebody when we’re not 100 per cent sure ourselves that there is an issue or not.”

Tänak won six special stages of Rally Estonia and ended the Baltic event in eighth overall. He would have finished fifth overall without the time penalty.