Consistency was the name of the game for M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Ott Tänak and Evgeny Novikov today as the 11th round of the FIA World Rally Championship (FIA) recommenced with the first full day of competition. Posting constant top-ten times, the pairing kept their composure through the undulating asphalt stages of Rallye de France Alsace to hold eighth and ninth place respectively at the end of Day 2.
Contesting two loops of three identical stages followed by an end of day dash through the town of Mulhouse, the pairing held their own as they tackled the unforgiving tests and some difficult decisions ahead of the morning loop.
With the stages varying in altitude and drying at different rates, the initial tyre choice was a tough call with Novikov following suit with the Factory Ford team on softs and Tänak predicting that rising temperatures would dry the damper Vallée de Munster stage (SS3) before his run for which he chose Michelin’s harder compound. In reality however, there was little to choose between the two compounds as the M-Sport duo traded stage times throughout the morning.
Getting back into the rhythm of asphalt rallying over the opening loop, Tänak and co-driver Kuldar Sikk set a string of competitive, top-ten times behind the wheel of their Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Despite being hindered by admittedly over-cautious pacenotes, the Estonians kept their noses clean whilst staying within reach of the leading pack.
Tänak’s consistency continued over the afternoon loop with another horde of comfortable times including a fifth fastest time through the final test ahead of a number of more experienced drivers – and just 2.6 seconds adrift of pacesetter Jari-Matti Latvala.
Despite the lack of the pre-event test, Novikov and co-driver Ilka Minor also kept their Ford Fiesta RS WRC out of trouble through the opening loop. With a consistent drive, the Russian posted a series of top-ten stage times to safeguard his overall position.
Continuing the trend into the afternoon and not taking any big risks, Novikov maintained his good form to eke out almost a two minute advantage over his nearest rival in the final points paying position.
Ott Tänak (8th) said:
“This afternoon was a bit better than this morning. The Tarmac feeling is coming back now. OK, it is not perfect, but it is getting better and I feel a bit more comfortable – I can push in places where I have more confidence.
“The conditions were still quite difficult in places – there were quite a few cuts and it was quite muddy in places – but no dramas.”
Evgeny Novikov (9th) said:
“This afternoon has been OK – nothing special. I am happy with the car and the times have not been too bad. We are just not taking any big risks and making sure that we get some good experience from all of the stages.”
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