Ott Tanak believes his hard-nosed approach with M-Sport Ford's mechanics and engineers is starting to pay off following his first win of the 2023 World Rally Championship campaign last weekend.
Victory and two additional Power Stage points promoted the Estonian to the top of the drivers' standings at the end of a drama-filled Rally Sweden that saw him lose the lead before retaking it towards the end of the penultimate day despite experiencing a tyre delamination.
While he was not the quickest across the three legs of the winter event, recording only a single fastest time at the wheel of his Puma Rally1, his consistency and reading of the road conditions kept him in the frame to lead the field home.
Tanak found an extra gear on the Sunday to ensure the Hyundai i20 N of the returning Craig Breen remained behind him to build on his fifth-place performance at last month's opener at Rallye Monte-Carlo.
“For myself, as you can see, I have been able to experience just the positives [since joining M-Sport],” he said following the win. “For the guys in the service park, I guess it has been a bit of stress for them.
“Definitely, I've been pushing them hard to be as perfect as possible, but that is how it goes. There is no win that is coming easy. We all need to put our best effort in and we made it happen this weekend.
“It's quite impressive – not so bad at all. When we came into the rally, we didn't really know what to expect. In the build up to the rally, we understood that we were never going to be the fastest, but we are happy to have kept our average pace pretty high alongside the other guys throughout the event.
“As a team, we made sure we didn't have any bad stages and didn't lose any time anywhere; that was the key. It's a great start to the Championship – probably more than we expected – but for sure we can improve a lot, and the plan is to pick up the pace when we go to the next round at Rally Mexico.”
As a former World Rally champion, M-Sport Ford's Team Principal Richard Millener was keen to secure Tanak's services during the off-season knowing the experience – and added motivation – that would inject into the British team.
“This weekend has been another one of those dream weekends for everyone in the team,” he said. “To come here to Sweden and not be too sure of where we would be placed, and to come away from this event with the win is something that is really special for us all.
“The pace from all the crews has been so close, so to take the overall victory just makes this extra special,” he added.