Estonian rally star Ott Tänak's return to M-Sport Ford after a five-year absence is in fact something of a homecoming and a move which they had already foreseen several years ago, rally portal Dirtfish reports in an exclusive interview with the Estonian.
In the meantime, Tänak has driven for the only other two teams who compete at the top level of the WRC, namely Toyota, who he won his first and, so far, only world title with, and Hyundai.
This made M-Sport Ford essentially the only place Tänak, 35, could go, if he wanted to keep driving in WRC for 2023 and beyond.
"Basically yes, more or less; I had no backups," the Estonian told Dirtfish.
"The other backup was just driving my Avant tractor at home and do some snow ploughing," he quipped.
Tänak was first introduced to Ford M-Sport team boss Malcolm Wilson by his fellow Estonian rally legend Markko Märtin, and, Dirtfish reports, while the speed and the potential were both obvious, "bent metal" became an increasingly frustrating by-product.
Tänak was done with M-Sport at the end of the 2012 season and had a year out, running his own team.
Relations with M-Sport and Malcolm Wilson nonetheless remained good, and Tänak headed to his next team, Toyota, with Wilson's "genuine blessing," Dirtfish said.
Five years ago even, Wilson said Tänak "will be back" at M-Sport, and indeed he is.
Perhaps Tänak's best chance of recreating the glory year of 2019, when he won the world championship with Toyota, comes with Ford, Dirtfish said.
"I wanted to be in a place where I have the full focus on doing everything in the team's power or in our power to be able to fight for the championship. And that was definitely one reason why I was considering moving to M-Sport – and my target is obviously the drivers' championship," Tänak told the portal.
"I always had a good relationship with Malcolm,"he added. "Everything that happened back in 2012 and so on; Malcolm never did anything wrong there."
"He's a sporting guy and he understands the business very well so obviously he knows why I'm back, he knows what are my intentions and why I am coming back. I'm not coming for fun I'm coming for sport so he understands it very well."
At the same time, about his last team, which he left late on in the 2022 season, Tänak said: "I can't say anything bad about Hyundai."
"There were many people I worked with who did a really great job to support me as much as possible so I can't say anything negative about them. There are some great people who definitely [it] was difficult to leave. It was not easy either, but still, altogether, my target is to have a chance to challenge for the championship."
However, Tänak went on: "Let's say I've not been happy with the last couple of years. Finishing second this year definitely doesn't make me happy, so I have some higher targets and I have not given up yet. The plan is to fight back."
The full, lengthy Dirtfish piece is here.
Editor: Andrew Whyte