M-Sport’s long wait for a return to the top step of the Finnish FIA World Rally Championship podium will go on after the Ford-powered squad suffered more disappointment on Secto Rally Finland earlier today (Friday).
Ott Tänak had given Malcolm Wilson’s team a big lift with the fastest time on the Harju superspecial on Thursday evening to take a lead of 0.6s into Friday’s first full day of action on the spectacular forest roads of Central Finland.
After dropping to second overall on SS2 this morning, the Estonian was then forced to retire with a mechanical failure on his Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid.
Speaking shortly after the incident, the three-time Rally Finland winner explained what went wrong. He said: “In a very fast place, it seems like we touched bedrock or something on the road in a compression. It has broken the sump guard and, from underneath, I can see that the starter motor is cracked.
“Other than that, it is not clear, but I can see that the engine oil is out and the engine is clearly broken. It’s quite probable there is a hole in the engine somewhere so I think this [rally] should be finished.”
After M-Sport confirmed it would be retiring Tänak’s Puma, the 2019 world champion said: “Of course we are disappointed. After Estonia this isn’t how we wanted this week to go. It’s a shame we can’t continue but the car is too damaged for us to carry on.
“Now it’s time to have a break after a few busy months, then we will focus fully on [the Acropolis Rally] in Greece in September.”
To compound the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s frustration, Pierre-Louis Loubet crashed his Puma on the same Lankamaa stage where Tänak’s challenge ended.
M-Sport scored its first Rally Finland win in 2003 and also triumphed in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010, its last victory on the event.
Photo: Petro Piilo/AKK