M-Sport just did the most obvious thing, confirming Fernando Alonso… I mean, Ott Tanak as their new recruit. Estonian driver will team up with another promising youngster, Elfyn Evans, making the 2015 M-Sport line-up very young in age but also very high on ambitions. Evans just finished a full year of WRC and Tanak is no stranger to WRC scene. After Mikko Hirvonen’s departure, there was a brief, but nonetheless entertaining, period of unknown. We really had to suffer for a full few days before M-Sport finally decided to end our pain, confirming what we all knew. In my humble opinion, Tanak’s arrival is a great move by M-Sport – it’s not a 100% safe bet, but those are very rare in this sport. Tanak is eager to finally unleash his full potential while Evans will be keen to show progress after being around the best drivers in the world over the course of 2014. This team surely can do a lot of good things in 2015, if only they find a way to channel their ambitions into stage times. I am very much looking forward to what 2015 will bring for M-Sport.
Official team’s press release follows below.
A TEAM WITH POTENTIAL: M-SPORT CONFIRM EVANS AND TÄNAK
M-Sport is pleased to confirm that Ott Tänak will partner Elfyn Evans next year as the team field one of the FIA World Rally Championship’s (WRC) most exciting young teams.
As two of the WRC’s most gifted youngsters, M-Sport is motivated by the pairing’s potential and look forward to nurturing their talent as they make their mark behind the wheel of the Ford Fiesta RS WRC.
Following what has been one of the championship’s most impressively controlled debuts in a top-specification world rally car, Evans’ continuation with the team has long been known.
The Welshman, who is partnered by fellow Brit Daniel Barritt, secured two career-best fourth place finishes in Mexico and Germany and took his first stage win – the Power Stage no less – on the asphalt roads of Rallye Deutschland.
With a full year of experience under his belt, Evans will be looking to improve his skills further and the team are encouraged by the prospect of additional progress – the 25-year-old aiming to increase his speed and performance on each of the 13 events.
Following Mikko Hirvonen’s retirement, Tänak was the obvious replacement and a clear favourite amongst the media and fans alike.
The Estonian is blisteringly quick and has already built strong relationships with the team. Returning to the world stage with a Fiesta RS WRC in Sweden and Portugal earlier this year, he and co-driver Raigo Mõlder instantly impressed.
After more than a year’s absence from the championship, Tänak proved that he had lost none of his pizzazz – setting fastest times and running as high as second overall at Rally de Portugal. Having combined his speed with a renewed sense of maturity, the 27-year-old will be one to watch as the 2015 season unfolds.
Development on an upgraded version of the Fiesta RS WRC began in earnest in the midst of 2014 and the test team will embark on a comprehensive test schedule before the end of the year. A series of evolutions will be launched throughout the course of the 2015 season.
Elfyn Evans said:
“I’m really looking forward to next year. We’ve had a great first season and gained so much knowledge and experience of the events. There’s going to be a lot of hard work next year – analysing all of the data that we’ve collected from all of the rallies – but I’m confident that we can continue to progress and improve our speed and performance on each event.
“We’re really looking forward to working with Ott [Tänak] and Raigo [Mõlder]. We’ve worked together on a few events this year and we all get on really well. They’ll both fit perfectly into the team dynamics and I’m sure we’ll all be able to work together as we strive towards our respective goals.
“Finally I want to say a huge thanks to Malcolm [Wilson] and the team for their continued support and belief. I’m in the best possible place to progress, and none of this would be possible without every single member of the team.”
Ott Tänak said:
“I’m really happy to have been given another chance. I know it’s going to be a big challenge and a big responsibility, but I’m ready for it and I’m really looking forward to the season ahead.
“We’ll need to find our rhythm in the first few events, but I’ve been working with M-Sport for a long time and I have a lot of mileage with the Fiesta RS WRC so I hope it won’t take too long to get up to speed. We have some good experience of most of the rallies and I think that there are some events where we could do really well.
“I’ve definitely grown as a driver and I want to thank Malcolm [Wilson] for giving me this second chance. We worked really hard this year and I think we proved that we have the potential; but none of that would have been possible without Malcolm and M-Sport, and for that, I am extremely grateful.
“I’ve been overwhelmed by the support we’ve received in recent years. There are so many people out there who have stayed with us on this long journey; I am really humbled by that and truly thankful for their faith in me.”
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“I think it’s fair to say that we will be fielding what is one of the most exciting driver pairings in the FIA World Rally Championship next year. There is no doubting the potential of Elfyn [Evans] and Ott [Tänak] and I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do.
“Both drivers have a full season of world rally car experience and the whole team is motivated by the possibility of some break-through performances. I fully believe that both drivers are capable of challenging for the podium on a number of events and we are all looking forward to what looks set to be another thrilling year of rallying.
“We have some exciting developments for the Fiesta RS WRC on the horizon and we plan to implement these upgrades as the season progresses. The signing of Elfyn and Ott has brought a real enthusiasm to the team and we’re all looking forward to fulfilling their potential next year.”