Estonian WRC star Ott Tänak is looking to finish the last two races of the season on a high, before rejoining Hyundai for the 2024 season.
The WRC season continues this coming weekend with the Central European Rally, headquartered in Germany and with stages there, in Austria and in the Czech Republic.
Defending champion Kalle Rovanperä (Toyota) is overall leader on 217 points, 31 points ahead of his teammate, Welshman Elfyn Evans, hunting for his maiden title.
Belgian Thierry Neuville (Hyundai, 155 points) lies in third place ahead of Tänak, on 146 points.
While there are 60 points on the board still to play with from the remaining two rounds, only Evans has a mathematical chance of pipping Rovanperä to the post.
Tänak meanwhile has been battling hard at M-Sport Ford, a team less well-funded than Toyota or Hyundai (no other manufacturers compete at top level at present) and took his second win of the season in Chile, at the start of the month.
The upcoming race is the first to take place on asphalt for several months, Tänak noted.
"Also, the Central European Rally is new to the WRC calendar. It will be a major challenge for us, but our clear goal is to make the most of the last two rounds," Tänak said via an M-Sport Ford press release.
Weather conditions will also be a factor, the Estonian added.
Team boss Richard Millener noted that Tänak's win had brought a new lease of life to M-Sport Ford.
"We got a breath of fresh air at Rally Chile, but now we are focusing on getting in some great results at the end of the season too. Ott is certainly working hard, and we know he wants to fight for the high positions in Central Europe and in [season finale] Japan."
"We will continue to see what the [Ford] Puma is capable of, and the season finishing on a high would mean a lot to the whole team;" Millener added.
Tänak's win in Chile ended a six-race drought when he had failed to reach the podium, having last done so at Rally Portugal back in May; the Estonian's last, and first win of 2023, had come in Sweden in February.
Tänak finished second behind Elfyn Evans at the last asphalt race to take place this year, in Croatia, back in April.
The Central European Rally starts on Wednesday, a day earlier than most WRC events, with a 3.62 kilometer long shakedown phase.
The first stage proper starts at noon on the Thursday, and the race will run 18 stages in all, with a total length of 310.01km.
Tänak and co-driver Martin Järveoja are confirmed for Hyundai next season, a team he raced for 2020-2022.
He won his maiden world drivers' championship in 2019, with Toyota.
Editor: Andrew Whyte