M-Sport will be relying on a wealth of talent from their team as they head in to the season opening Rallye Monte-Carlo with rally veterans Gwyndaf Evans and Timo Kankkunen lending their knowledge to Elfyn Evans and Ott Tänak.
Just twelve months ago Elfyn Evans started his maiden season in the upper echelons of the FIA World Rally Championship, taking on the mixture of dry asphalt, wet asphalt, ice and snow in the Ford Fiesta WRC. Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt performed impressively, taking home sixth place overall.
“Last year was the beginning of a fantastic opportunity,” said Evans, “but at the same time we had very little experience of the [Ford] Fiesta RS WRC and we hadn’t been to Monte-Carlo before so there were a lot of new things to learn.
Moving on to the 2015 season and Evans now has a full season in the Fiesta RS WRC and despite the move to the Hautes-Alpes will be a lot better equipped for the challenge ahead.
“It was a very challenging position to be in, but this year everything is much more familiar. The car in particular is a lot more familiar. The event will still be very difficult, but with a full year of competition under our belts I’m really looking forward to it.”
“The biggest challenge is undoubtedly the changeable weather conditions – not just from stage to stage but also within a stage. To be successful you need to make smart tyre choices and ultimately find the best compromise for each loop. I’m sure this year’s event will be no exception to that.
No longer the rookie Evans knows that this is an important year and will be looking to start the year in a positive manner.
“If we can secure a solid result to start the year that would be great. This is a difficult rally so if we can get to the end with glimpses of speed and some good consistency I’ll be happy. We’re keen to build the speed and have the speed there more consistently throughout the year. Of course some events will be stronger than others, but I’m really looking forward to getting started.”
Ott Tänak slots in to the vacant driving seat at M-Sport following Mikko Hirvonen‘s retirement, the appointment of the Estonian has proved popular to rally fans who will be hoping for a fast start to the 2015 season.
Tänak, like Evans, has only taken part in Rallye Monte-Carlo once before when he took eighth place overall. Joining him for the season is Raigo Mõlder this pairing will definitely be one to watch in to 2015.
“I’m expecting a tough event next week.” admitted Tänak. “I’ve only done it once before and that was in 2012 when the conditions weren’t as tricky as they have been more recently. It looks as though we could have some wintery conditions this year so we’ll need to stay calm and steady.
“The conditions change all the time. In some places you’ll have full snow and in others there will be patches of Tarmac. Sometimes there’ll be full grip, and sometimes there’ll be no grip at all!
“It’s really difficult to find the confidence without going over the limit, but we are drivers and that is our job. We need to find the balance between being fast, and being comfortable –nowhere is that more of a challenge than at Monte-Carlo so it is going to be a really tricky start to the year.”
Tänak drove in the WRC2 championship for most of 2014 but has previous experience of the Fiesta RS WRC, so despite limited pre-season testing feels at home in the car.
“We tested at the end of last year and the feeling was good. We did a lot of mileage and even though I was driving the [Ford] Fiesta R5 for most of 2014, I have a lot of experience with the [Ford] Fiesta RS WRC so it didn’t take long to get back into the groove.
“The hardest part is finding that sweet spot – that special place between being close to the limit without going over it. That will take some time, but if we start smoothly and work up to it I’m sure we can have a good event.”
Alongside the two factory entries M-Sport have a total of eight Ford Fiesta WRC’s including Bryan Bouffier and Henning Solberg. Bouffier impressed at the 2014 Rallye Monte-Carlo when he lead the early stages of the rally, before finishing second place.
In addition, eight Ford Fiesta R5s have been entered alongside two Ford Fiesta R2s.