‘MAXIMUM ATTACK’ SEES M-SPORT’S YOUNG GUNS RECOVER POINTS IN ARGENTINA
M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Evgeny Novikov and Ott Tänak recovered well despite their early set-backs at the 2012 Philips Rally Argentina. Setting some impressive stage times over the final tests, Novikov recuperated vital points and eighth position with Tänak progressing from 27th to 10th and the final World Rally Championship (WRC) point.
In a return to classic rallying, Rally Argentina saw an emphasis on endurance with M-Sport’s young stars tackling some of the longest stages the WRC has seen for almost a decade. Putting their misfortunes firmly behind them, the pairing set some impressive times to reaffirm their obvious pace on the challenging event.
Having collided with a rock which had been pulled onto the inside of a corner and consequentially damaging the left-rear wishbone of their Ford Fiesta RS WRC, Novikov and co-driver Denis Giraudet were forced to Rally 2 after the opening day of the rally. Despite using the longest day of competition to perfect his pacenotes for the following year, the fast, flowing stages through the Calamuchite Valley certainly played into the hands of the young Russian who climbed the leaderboard to lie a credible 11th at the end of Day 2.
Recuperating his previous good form, Novikov was back to maximum attack over the final day in the Traslasierra mountains. The opening loop saw the Muscovite set top-three times on all three stages – including the mammoth 65.74 km of Matadero/ Ambul – to get his Fiesta RS WRC back in the points.
There were further gains for Novikov over the afternoon including the second fastest time over the second pass of Mina Clavero (SS17), just 1.7 seconds adrift of the resurgent factory Ford Fiesta RS WRC of Petter Solberg. Following the retirement of Dani Sordo’s sister factory Ford Fiesta RS WRC, combined with the young Russian’s speed, Novikov secured eighth place overall.
Elsewhere, Tänak and co-driver Kuldar Sikk suffered heart-aching misfortunes on the opening day of Rally Argentina. Despite setting some promising times, the Estonian pairing damaged the steering arm on their Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Thanks to the 24-year-old’s ingenuity and mechanical knowledge, the duo were able to make it back to service, only to fall foul to the second pass over La Pampa (SS4) and being forced to Rally 2 over the remaining tests.
In spite of being disadvantaged running first on the road, Tänak was back to his best on Day 2. Piloting his Fiesta RS WRC to the fourth fastest time on all three stages over the morning loop, the youngster gained more than ten minutes on his nearest rivals to climb an impressive 10 places from 27th to 17th.
Working on perfecting his pacenotes ahead of his return to the Argentine stages, Tänak climbed a further seven places over the final day to claim a world championship point in tenth.
Evgeny Novikov (8th) said:
“I have really enjoyed the stages today. They were quite challenging and really fast in places so I could take my driving to the maximum. Honestly this is not the position we were looking for, but I am happy to have made it to the end and set some good times.
“Denis [Giraudet] and I have a lot of detail in our pacenotes now so we should be in a good position for next year and I am happy to have recovered some good points today.”
Ott Tänak (10th) said:
“This has not been the best rally for us, but we made it to the end which is the main thing. The stages have been quite challenging, so I am happy that we made it through and had the chance to improve our pacenotes.
“For sure this is not the result we wanted, but we were setting some good times and the [world championship] point is some consolation.”