M-Sport press release
Heartache For Novikov As Tänak Masters Mexican Endurance
Embarking on the toughest day of competition at the ninth Rally Guanajuato Mexico, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Evgeny Novikov and Ott Tänak endured a massive 183.30 km and 13 hours of competitive stages. Continuing a composed display of maturity on the difficult stages, Tänak held his own to secure sixth place heading into the final day of competition.
Elsewhere however, there was heartache for Novikov as the Russian clipped the rear of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC on the final stage of the day rendering him in, an unusual for 2012, 11th place.
The fast, flowing roads of SS13 (Ibarilla 1) are synonymous with the Mexican event and drivers have to work hard to find the right line and avoid the treacherous rocks which litter the side of the road.
Despite not being 100 per cent comfortable behind the wheel of their Ford Fiesta RS WRC, Novikov and co-driver Denis Giraudet set the eighth fastest time over the 29.9 km test to maintain their seventh place and keep former Rally Mexico podium finisher, Chris Atkinson, at bay. Regardless of his continued unease with the set-up of his Fiesta, the Russian kept pace with the top drivers over SS14 to set the seventh fastest time and increase his lead over Atkinson to 41.1 seconds.
Finding a better rhythm over the afternoon loop, Novikov avoided the pitfalls and punctures which blighted so many others on SS15 (Ibarilla 2). Setting the fourth fastest time a full six seconds clear of yesterday’s podium sitter, Mads Østberg, the Muscovite closed the gap to team mate Tänak to just 4.2 seconds.
The afternoon’s final set of stages saw the M-Sport crews tackle two passes through Comanjilla – the last five kilometres of which will form the Power Stage tomorrow – interspersed with an elongated Super Special; SS18 and SS19 having been combined to form one 4.42 km test around the Autodromo in León.
Another top-ten time from Novikov on SS17 saw the Russian consolidate his seventh place with over a minute in hand over Nassar Al-Attiyah in eighth. After thrilling the crowds on the Super Special, the Russian embarked on the second pass over Comanjilla (SS20). Unfortunately, the Russian hit a bank with his right-rear wheel on the second corner. After losing the wheel and damaging the rear of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC further into the stage, Novikov will restart under Rally 2 tomorrow.
Continuing their impressive campaign in Mexico, Tänak and co-driver Kuldar Sikk had a strong run over the morning loop. Having rolled his MM Motorsport run Ford Fiesta S2000 on Ibarilla last year, Tänak took a cautious approach towards the end of SS14. Despite his caution, the youngster held his own against the top drivers, setting the fifth fastest time in the process. A spin and a stalled engine on SS14 (Otates 1) lost the Estonian over 15 seconds, but Tänak still clinched the sixth fastest time just 19.6 seconds adrift of Petter Solberg’s trouble-free run in the factory Ford Fiesta RS WRC.
The second pass over Ibarilla (SS15) was less fruitful for Tänak as a puncture saw him lose almost a minute to the front runners. Deciding to continue but losing the rubber mid-way through the stage, Tänak’s lead over team mate Novikov tumbled from 58.4 seconds to just 4.2 seconds. Unfazed by his problems on the previous stage, the Estonian’s maturity shone through as he secured another impressive time on the second pass over Otates (SS16).
Taking it steady over Comanjills 1 (SS17) and gaining experience of tomorrow’s Power Stage, Tänak set the sixth fastest time to extend his lead over Novikov to over 20 seconds. Entertaining the crowds around the elongated Super Special at León’s Autodromo, the Estonian went head to head with Solberg – setting the fourth fastest time and vowing that one day he would get the better of the factory Ford driver before ending the day with another strong time over the final stage.
Ott Tänak (6th) said:
“The last stages were quite ok. Mostly we were just checking our pace against Evgeny’s [Novikov] splits. I think the first stage after service went really well when we took about eight seconds out of him so that was good.
“It was a lot of fun going up against Petter [Solberg] on the Super Special. We tried, but I think we might have tried too much because on the first corner we went wide and lost some time. The gap after the first and second loop was the same so I lost the time on the first one. But that is just the way it is, and next time I’ll do better.
“On the last stage we saw that Evgeny had a problem so we slowed right down as we don’t have any need to push. We have a pretty big gap behind us now so tomorrow we will work on perfecting the pacenotes for next year.”