Tanak endured a difficult start to the first gravel rally of the season after ending Friday in 18th position, 14m05s behind rally leader and Hyundai driver Esapekka Lappi

The 2019 world champion already faced the daunting task of opening Mexico’s dusty gravel stages as championship leader, before a turbo failure cost the Estonian 12 minutes across the morning loop. 

After nursing the Ford Pumas to midday service where the issue was repaired, Tanak struggled to match the speed of his Rally1 rivals across the afternoon stages.

The Estonian confirmed that it wasn’t his road position that was to blame for his lack of speed.

“It has been a tough day,” said Tanak. “It was not really much to do with the road position it was generally some other issues which I didn’t notice this morning. 

“We are struggling to match the R5 [cars] so it would be nice if we could find more pace.”

Ott Tänak, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

Tanak admitted he was fortunate to complete all of Friday’s stages following the turbo issue.

The problem required Tanak to stop in stage 3 where he attempted to fix the issue, before going on to limp through three stages before reaching midday service.

The situation wasn’t made any easier by Mexico’s high altitude stages that can sap engine power by up to 30%, but luckily Tanak was assisted by his Rally1 car’s hybrid power. 

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“Without some hybrid support in some places it was not going to be possible [to make it to service]," he added. 

“We were lucky to have some extra support [from hybrid], but, anyway, we lost more than 12 minutes, so I guess it was going to be slow anyway.

“It was quite a struggle in the car. I didn’t feel anything going slowly before, it just switched off. I hoped that it was just a loose [turbo] pipe but this wasn’t the case.”

Tanak was the only M-Sport driver to navigate through Friday’s stages after team-mates Pierre-Louis Loubet and Jourdan Serderidis retired on stage 3 in separate incidents. 

2023-03-18T12:16:43Z dg43tfdfdgfd