Ott Tänak will be looking to turn podium pace into a maiden Safari Rally Kenya success in Naivasha this week.
The Estonian has run in the top-three on the last two African WRC journeys – and M-Sport Ford team principal Richard Millener is sure the 2019 champion has the approach and the mindset to win.
Millener told WRC.com: “Ott is definitely a clever driver – he knows how to approach events like this. It’s a skill to judge the speed and the risk and he’s got it.
“We know this is one of the toughest challenges of the season, but we also know the Puma can be strong and the goal is to come away with a strong result.”
Tänak will be aiming to break Toyota’s stranglehold of success in this latest era of the Safari.
“I haven’t really succeeded there yet, so [winning] is something to discover for myself,” he said. “We need to make sure we won’t incur any mechanical setbacks with the tough conditions and then it’s up to us to give our best performance.”
Tänak and co-driver Martin Järveoja trained with marathon world record holder Eliud Kipchoge at the start of what’s a special week in the season.
He added: “That was an incredible moment. Even though our sports are different, we could still understand each other’s world. I wish we had more time to enjoy life around the rally in Kenya, but it’s of course the wildlife that is so special compared to our lives in Europe.”
The 2019 World Rally Championship champion
lies in third place in the drivers’ table after six stages, no mean feat given the M-Sport Ford team he drives for is less well-funded than the Toyota and Hyundai works teams.
Tänak has 85 points going into Rally Kenya, behind reigning world champion Kalle Rovanperä of Finland, driving for Toyota (118 points), and ever-the-bridesmaid Belgian Thierry Neuville, Tänak’s former teammate at Hyundai, on 93 points.
Rally Kenya starts a day earlier in the week than most WRC events, on Wednesday, with a shakedown run, followed by stage on proper on the Thursday, and the remainder Friday to Sunday.
The event takes place around Naivasha, around 100km North of Nairobi.