Ahead of the 2023 season, the M-Sport Ford rally team announced some changes to its its driver lineup, which included bringing on James Fulton to replace Paul Nagle, who retired from his position as Craig Breen’s co-driver, as well as removing Adrien Fourmaux from competition and adding 2019 FIA World Rally Champions, Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja. Along with a new livery for the Puma Rally1 Hybrid racer, M-Sport Ford opened the 2023 World Rally Championship (WRC) season at Monte Carlo last month, where Tänak finished fifth overall. The team continued that success at this past weekend’s 2023 Rally Sweden as well, where Tänak and Järveoja claimed their first victory of the season.
The race marked just the second stint behind the wheel of the Puma Rally1 Hybrid for Tänak, as well has his second win at Rally Sweden and his first M-Sport victory since 2017. The Estonian never fell lower than second place the entire weekend in a rather dominant performance that saw him enter Sunday with a commanding 11.6-second lead over the competition.
“As a team, we made sure we didn’t have any bad stages and didn’t lose any time anywhere; that was the key,” Tänak said. “Sweden is unique, we only rally here once a year. It’s the same for Mexico, and opening the road there can’t be a big advantage! It’s a great start to the championship, probably more than we expected. For sure we can improve a lot, and the plan is to pick up the pace.”
Meanwhile, Tänak’s teammate, Pierre-Louis Loubet, posted the second-fastest time in SS5, but a technical issue on the final Power Stage led to a sixth-place finish. In the WRC2 category, Robert Virves showed an impressive pace in his first outing in the Fiesta Rally2 with M-Sport, too. Now, the M-Sport Ford team will look ahead to the next round of competition, which takes place in Mexico on March 16th-19th.