Estonia's 2019 World Rally Champion Ott Tänak will drive for M-Sport Ford again next season. Tänak, who has spent the last two seasons racing for Hyundai, while be joined at M-Sport by co-driver Martin Järveoja.
"M-Sport is the place that raised me as a driver and gave me all the hard lessons and experience to become a top level player in the World Rally Championship," Tänak said in a press statement.
"After becoming a world champion, I have not been able to defend the title and I am not able to make peace with myself like this," he said, adding that he believes M-Sport owner Malcolm Wilson shared his ambition to get back to the top.
"It is going to be a big challenge for us, but I know the people in Dovenby, I know what they are capable of and with their passion to give everything they have, we can challenge for the championship. I'm happy to be back in M-Sport Ford World Rally Team and we will give our everything next year!" Tänak said.
Ott Tänak joined M-Sport in 2011 and raced for the team until 2017. He then spent two seasons at Toyota, winning the WRC title in 2019, before moving to Hyundai. Amongst the highlights of Tänak's first spell at M-Sport were his first points finish (in Mexico in 2011), first podium (in Italy in 2012) and his first rally win (in Italy in 2017). The Estonian also finished third overall in the championship in 2017.
M-Sport's owner is Malcolm Wilson, who after previously working as team manager has now handed over that role to Richard Millener. According to Tänak, Wilson was the one believed in him most during the formative years of his career.
Wilson said, he was extremely happy to have Tänak back with the team.
"It fills me with tremendous happiness and joy to see Ott back here with us," Wilson said. "I have followed his career closely since his junior days and I'm very proud to have been a part of his achievements in the last decade."
"He has been to Dovenby to view our facilities and test the Puma in Greystoke Forest. It is fair to say from Ott's initial feedback that we are confident we can challenge for the world championship in 2023," the M-Sport Ford owner continued.
"Having Ott here for only a couple of days has highlighted to us the level needed to deliver rally-winning performances," said Wilson.
According to Millener, M-Sport is aiming to compete for the title in 2023.
"The aim for 2023 is clear for us and for Ott: to win the 2023 drivers' championship. To achieve this goal together will require a lot of hard work and energy, but we are prepared and ready for this challenge," Millener said, adding that having Tänak on board would lift the spirits of the team and enable M-Sport to reach its full potential.
"We have gained a lot of experience with the Puma in 2022, we know the strengths of the car and are confident that Ott is the right person to drive it to get the results we know we deserve," he said.
M-Sport has had little success since Sebastien Ogier won the world championship in 2017 and 2018. Ogier also shared the manufacturers' championship with Tänak in 2017.
Last season, tM-Sport Ford scored 257 points in the constructors' championship, well behind Toyota (525) and Hyundai (455). Veteran champion Sebastien Loeb did manage one win for M-Sport in the opening round of the season at Monte Carlo.
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In an interview with DirtFish, Tänak said that he wanted to be in a place where Ihe can focus on doing everything in the team's power to fight for the championship. "My target is obviously the drivers' championship, "Tänak said
"I know what power M-Sport has, but also it seems like the Puma has been, once again, quite strong from the start – basically from the word go," he said, adding that the believes the car provides a solid base for the team to build on and move forward.
Editor: Michael Cole