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  • Writer's pictureDrew Bentham

Tanaks' future as insecure as MSports.

by Drew Bentham

Ott Tanak
Ott Tanak surely has an uncertain future ahead

With the 2023 season on the home straight and with all but Thierry Neuville out of contract for next year, the driver market has opened.

Time to get....ah no wait that's not right is it?

In previous years the opening of the WRC driver market would have caused an interest, a surprise perhaps a stir. But as we're all to aware, the driver pool has gone stagnant. It is fully expected that Toyota will retain their current line up as is, Hyundai already have Thierry and I've heard may run an additional car in 2024. Dani Sordo, Teemo Suninen, possibly even Kris Meeke could all take a seat next year. And then there's Ott Tanak and MSport Ford, whose future are both in dire straits . Ott is out of contract for next year and MSport, well they may not even be able to compete next year. It feels like the WRC is Toyota and Hyundais playground and MSport is the little kid asking to play. More than that, The 'parents' being the FIA don't seem to have helped either with the Rally1 regulations.

MSport Ford Puma Rally1
MSport scored their only victory in Sweden this year

It was always the case that MSport had to sell customer Rally1 cars to survive and compete at the top level, and the numbers aren't out of the park, just 5-10 cars would do it. They have in fact sold just the 1, to part time driver Jourdain Serderidis. The cost and complexity of the new machines means that customers are not tempted to buy into the series, instead remaining happy with the Rally2 (old R5) cars, of which MSport have sold many. This shows in the respective fields of both the ERC and WRC2, both enjoying a resurgence lately.

2023 MSport Ford Fiesta R2
Fiesta R5 still a popular choice for ERC and WRC2 customers.

I can't help but feel that MSport and the WRC are on the critical list but without direction or a plan or indeed purpose. If MSport cannot make it work for next year, despite what Richard Millener and the team have said, then they're long history in the sport may have to come to an end. And I for one would be sadden by this.

So what of Ott Tanak? His and the teams year have been a disaster. The win in Sweden and second in Croatia was an obvious highlight which promised so much. But there have been so many more chances throughout the year and the pace shown, that could or should have been capitalised on. The reliability has been appalling. It was never going to be easy this year. Realistically, I don't think a championship was ever on the cards. How can you compete against 3/4 car teams with only 1 driver in with a shot? The car would have to be better, faster, stronger than the others to be in with a chance. As reported by Autosport today, Ott shares these worries. Frankly I would be surprised if Malcom Wilson can secure him again for next year, so what then?

There is a small chance he could go back to Hyundai or perhaps he could find a seat in World Rallycross for a year or 2. Perhaps if Subaru do come back he could find a seat there. Either way I think very little will change.

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