Tanak scores first Puma win in preparation for WRC Rally Sweden
M-Sport elected to field new signing Tanak in the Estonian national rally to offer the 2019 world rally champion extra testing mileage in the Puma ahead of Rally Sweden.
New testing restrictions have been imposed on WRC teams this year in a bid to clamp down on costs by limiting manufacturer teams to 21 pre-event test days (a maximum of seven per driver) instead of 28 permitted last year.
As a result, teams have chosen to contest national rallies to recover the lost mileage, with M-Sport, Toyota and Hyundai all in action this weekend.
Tanak maximised his outing in the one-day event on Otepaa’s snow covered roads to complete a clean sweep of eight fastest stage times. The Estonian, who finished fifth at the WRC Monte Carlo season opener, claimed victory by 2m44.1s from countryman Georg Linnamae, driving a Rally2 specification Hyundai i20 N.
Tanak wasn’t the only Rally1 car in action at the event as M-Sport ran a Puma for privateer Jourdan Serderidis. The Greek finished 17th overall, some 11m25.3s adrift of Tanak.
Meanwhile, in Finland Hyundai and Toyota were action as the Kuopio Rally hosted the second round of the Finnish Rally Championship.
Hyundai fielded an i20 N for new signing Esapekka Lappi, while Toyota entered a GR Yaris for Takamoto Katsuta ahead of his maiden run in the team’s third WRC points-scoring car in Sweden.
Ott Tänak, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1
Photo by: M-Sport
Lappi managed to edge Katsuta to win the first four stages of the snow rally to hold a 12.9s lead over his WRC rival heading into the midday service.
However, in Stage 5, Katsuta ran off the road and into a snowbank, shipping 21.2s to Lappi while recovering the car. The Japanese was unable to start the following stage due to a leaking radiator, caused following the impact.
“We were not able to drive until the end but still It was good preparation for Rally Sweden for me on super nice roads,” Katsuta posted on social media.
Lappi continued his prefect start to the rally before crashing into a snowbank on the penultimate stage, costing the Finn 11 minutes and the likely victory.
“This day was intended to seek those limits, I must have braked a little late,” Lappi told Rallit.FI.
“We were now able to see how the car behaves on roads I have never driven before. We also got a fine-tuned car.”
WRC2 regular Jari Huttunen went on to clinch the victory, driving a Skoda Fabia Rally2.