M-Sport Ford World Rally Team will be looking to finish the year with another strong result next week as the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) journeys to the season finale – and the only true ‘mixed-surface’ event of the year – at the 2012 RACC Rally de España.
Assuming its new position as the WRC’s closing round, Rally de España presents a real challenge for crews and technicians alike.
On the opening day, flashes of asphalt disrupt the predominantly gravel stages meaning that the drivers will need to contend with continuous adjustments to their driving style and technique.
Yet with this year’s later date holding the prospect of damper conditions, the polished asphalt has the potential to become treacherously slippery – adding to the challenge and being sure to provide some intense competition as the crews do battle for the final spoils.
The challenge of dual surface rallying will also see the team decipher a number of factors to determine the optimum set-up – as well as the intricate task of converting each Ford Fiesta RS WRC from its gravel to Tarmac specification in just seventy-five minutes – to ultimately provide a rally car that performs to the best of its ability on both surfaces.
Showcasing their speed and composure on the previous round in Sardinia, Ott Tänak and co-driver Kuldar Sikk have proven that they have the skills to contend with the challenges ahead.
After securing his first podium behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC, the Estonian will be hunting seventh place in the Drivers’ Championship – a position he trails by just one point going into the final round.
With an impressive track-record on asphalt, the 25-year-old will be out to impress.
Taking the coveted Power Stage win on the previous sealed-surface outing in France and securing two stage victories in Germany, Tänak is hungry for further successes and will be looking to end his season on another high.
Joining the team in Spain, John Powell and co-driver Michael Fennell will be hoping to make the most of their first venture to the WRC.
Taking to the wheel of the Ford Fiesta RS WRC, the pairing will be aiming to gain a wealth of knowledge and experience which they can harness in their regional championships as well as another potential assault on the world stage.
This will be Powell’s first outing on the Spanish event, and with the majority of his rallying experience on gravel, the Trinidad and Tobago driver is relishing the challenge.
The long stages will also pose a test for Powell as much of the rallying in his homeland is contested over short six to seven kilometre stages.
But with the M-Sport team behind them, the pairing will be looking to complete a trouble free rally with a solid result for the Cumbrian squad.
Ott Tänak said: “I am feeling pretty good ahead of Spain. We didn’t have a perfect start to the season, but recently the feeling has been getting better and better so I hope we can continue improving.
“We had to Super Rally last year so some of the stages will be completely new to us. The Tarmac stages are really nice to drive – flowing roads where you can carry a lot of speed.
The gravel stages are obviously a little different – they are a lot narrower with a mix of high and low speed sections.
“The mix of gravel and Tarmac will be a challenge.
We’ll need to find the right set-up on the car for both surfaces and it won’t be so easy to get back into the rhythm when you are swapping from one surface to the other – but that’s part of the challenge and I am looking forward to it.”
John Powell said: “This will be my first WRC event so I think it is fair to say that I am pretty nervous! We’re trying not to think too much about what to expect, we’ll just be hoping to gain some good experience and get to the end in one piece.
“I’ve been at M-Sport this week and there has been a lot of talk about a certain Jamaican bobsled team.
Nobody thought there would be a Jamaican bobsled team and who would have thought that someday there would be a WRC driver from Trinidad and Tobago!
The bobsled team finished dead last, but they had a great time doing it and made a pretty big impression on the sport. Maybe we can do the same – and maybe one day they will make a movie about us too.
“Back in our regional championships the stages are a lot shorter, so this 45 km stage will be something completely new for us.
This event will be a big challenge, but I am really looking forward to the experience and I need to thank M-Sport for providing such a fantastic opportunity.”
Source: M-Sport Ford World Rally Team