Ott Tanak is aiming for an electric ending to his six-year stint with M-Sport – by snatching second in the standings from Hyundai Motorsport‘s Thierry Neuville at the 2017 WRC Rally Australia season finale.
M-Sport charge into the campaign’s curtain-closer down under buoyed by a sensational triple crown-sealing Wales Rally GB two weeks ago, with Elfyn Evans and Sébastien Ogier showered in glory as Malcolm Wilson‘s unit claimed both the drivers’ and manufacturers’ title along with rally victory.
With the wild celebrations now done and dusted, the somewhat overshadowed and enigmatic Estonian Tanak takes centre-stage for the Cumbrian squad this weekend – before leaving for pastures new in 2018 with Tommi Mäkinen‘s Toyota Gazoo Racing outfit.
Tanak finds himself 14 points behind Hyundai hard-charger Neuville with one round remaining in the duel for the runners-up spot, and is firmly focused on overturning the deficit – hoping to present a perfect parting gift to his current employers before exiting stage left.
“It’s a nice feeling heading to Rally Australia as part of a championship winning team, but the hard work isn’t over yet,” Tanak said.
“We’ve still got a chance of finishing second in the championship and we’ll be giving our all to end our time with the team on a high.”
A one-two finish in the drivers’ standings would prove the icing on the cake in what has been a fairy-tale campaign for M-Sport, but Tanak asserted that tackling the loose terrain and treacherous challenges of Australia’s iconic routes will prove a tremendously tough task.
“It won’t be easy – Rally Australia never is – and it’s completely different to anything else we experience. Everything is different – even the shadows in the forest – and we’ll have to be at the very top of our game if we want to deliver a strong result.”
Tanak descends into the Australian wilderness knowing that even a maximum 30-point haul might not even be enough to seal second, and will be hoping that Neuville’s recent troubles plague the Belgian again in what’s likely to be a severely attritional event.
Despite potential road-sweeping duties being a threat to Tanak’s slim hopes of chasing down Neuville, the 2017 double-winner will be giving his all and applying the heat in pursuit of a dream ending to life with M-Sport.
“It all starts with the recce and we’ll have to be fully focused from the word go – driving with complete trust in the notes and keeping the foot to the floor to combat what would be some fairly heavy road sweeping if it stays dry.”