Improved Puma promised by M-Sport for second WRC round

M-Sport Ford’s Team Principal believes the work that has gone on behind the scenes in the period since Rallye Monte-Carlo last month puts their Puma Rally1 in a good place going into Rally Sweden.
Improved Puma promised by M-Sport for second WRC round

The British squad completed the season-opener in France fifth overall courtesy of a gusty drive by new signing Ott Tanak despite having to contend with an early transmission glitch and persistent steering woes.

In comparison, it was a less successful opener for young hotshot Pierre-Louis Loubet who, on top of having to overcome an identical power steering problem, retired from the Saturday leg after damaging the right rear corner of his Puma which went on to develop a costly water leak on the Sunday leg.

Yet in spite of these setbacks, Richard Millener insists the feeling within the camp is positive and Tanak’s input is benefiting not only those involved with the whole World Rally set-up – but Loubet as well.

“Ott made a really good start to the season in Monte-Carlo as he got to grips with the Puma,” said Millener. “We have been working on a few things with him since then, and I hope we will see the results of that next week.

“This will be a completely new challenge for Pierre-Louis but I’m sure he will benefit from Ott’s expertise, and it will be great to get him some more time on a surface less familiar to him.

“He delivered some really strong performances on loose-surface events last year, so I hope he can use that to his advantage – even if Sweden is a bit colder than Greece and Sardinia,” he added.

In an attempt to dial himself into the Blue Oval much more quickly, Estonian Tanak is in action this weekend on home soil at Otepää talveralli – a national meeting he won during his days as a Hyundai employee in 2021.

“This has been our first opportunity to try out the car on snow and ice,” he said ahead of the rally. “Some things seem to be there, and we are gradually growing in confidence.

“This is why it’s critical to do this rally in Estonia, to get some more experience across different conditions, and we will find out how far away we are from the right set-up.

“Personally, I feel much more confident on snow, so we will see how we compare to the other guys. If it is icy, it’s better to be out earlier on the road, and if it’s very snowy it’s the other way around.

“So, it really depends on the conditions. We will just have to see what the weather does. Either way, we are ready for the action, we have no choice.”

Other WRC big-hitters at winter rallies this weekend include Hyundai’s Esapekka Lappi and Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Takamoto Katsuta. Both are appearing at SM-Ralli Kuopio and can look forward to 59 competitive miles spread across eight ice-covered stages.

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