ESTONIAN driver Ott Tänak will return to M-Sport to join Elfyn Evans in the British team’s Ford-powered 2015 line-up.
Even before Mikko Hirvonen’s recent retirement, speculation linked Tänak with a Ford Fiesta RS seat following impressive World Rally Car appearances in Sweden and Portugal this year, WRC.com reported.
He finished fifth in Sweden, having been up to third, and was second in Portugal for much of the opening leg. He took seventh at Wales Rally GB last weekend.
Tänak drove with M-Sport in 2012 but was dropped after an accident-prone season. He returned to the championship this year, primarily in WRC 2, with a more mature attitude and guided by new co-driver Raigo Mõlder.
“I know it’s going to be a big challenge and a big responsibility, but I’m ready for it,” he said.
“We’ll need to find our rhythm in the first few events, but I’ve been working with M-Sport for a long time and have a lot of mileage with the Fiesta RS WRC so I hope it won’t take too long to get up to speed.
“We have good experience of most rallies and I think there are some events where we could do really well.”
Tänak thanked M-Sport boss Malcolm Wilson for showing faith in him for a second time.
“I’ve definitely grown as a driver and I want to thank Malcolm for giving me this second chance. We worked really hard this year and I think we proved we have the potential,” he added.
Evans’ continuation in the team was already known after an impressive debut at the top level, which netted two fourth places.
He will be just 26 at the start of next season and his new colleague is only a year older, giving M-Sport the youngest line-up of the top teams.
Both drivers will have equal status and Wilson said both were capable of challenging for top-three places.
“There is no doubting the potential of Elfyn and Ott and I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do. Both drivers have a full season of World Rally Car experience and the whole team is motivated by the possibility of some breakthrough performances,” Wilson said.
“I fully believe both drivers are capable of challenging for the podium on a number of events,” he said.