The story so far..
Tänak’s rally career began in his native Estonia, and he won the national championship in 2008 and 2009 driving for a team run by fellow countryman and ex-Ford driver Markko Märtin.
His potential was sufficient to win the European Pirelli Star Driver shootout and he was awarded a six-round programme in the PWRC support category in the 2010 WRC.
Wins in Finland and Britain placed him fourth and in 2011 Tänak was behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta S2000 in SWRC. Victories in Italy, Germany and France sent him to the final round in Spain with a title chance but an early retirement meant he had to settle for the runners-up spot in the standings.
But while he missed out on victory in SWRC, his performance earned him a bigger prize in 2012 when he was promoted to lead driver at the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team.
His big break got off to a shaky start with engine failure in Sweden, and this set the tone for a generally disappointing year, most notable for crashes, retirements and missed opportunities. He took his maiden podium on the penultimate round in Sardinia but by then team boss Malcolm Wilson had seen enough and Tänak was dropped at the end of the season.
Without a top line drive in 2013 Tänak found himself back in the Estonian Championship, where he won the Group N class and considered his future.
He made his WRC comeback in 2014 with a split programme, combining WRC 2 in a Ford Fiesta R5 for the Drive DMACK team with three events back in an M-Sport Fiesta RS World Rally Car. Now armed with new levels of maturity and focus to go with his raw speed, he impressed from the off, taking fifth in Sweden, then running as high as second overall in Portugal. He won the WRC 2 class in Poland and rounded off the season with a fine seventh at Wales Rally GB.
Having addressed his earlier shortcomings, Tänak was invited back into the M-Sport fold for 2015, filling the vacancy left by the retiring Mikko Hirvonen.
After a strong fourth in Sweden his season took a scary turn in Mexico when his Fiesta went off the road and was completely submerged in a lake. Footage of his astonishing escape went viral and made ‘the raising of the Ti- Tänak’ one of the most talked about WRC stories of the year. Back on four wheels he made the top five three more times, with the highlight being a third place in Poland.
He was dropped for a second time at the end of the year, but stayed with Fiesta RS power to drive in 2016 with the newly-formed DMACK World Rally Team.
Helping the tyre firm develop its new WRC range in the heat of competition meant Tänak was frequently on the ragged edge, but he had his share of success too. He secured second places in Poland and Wales, and Poland could have been even better were it not for a last-minute puncture that cruelly denied him a maiden win.
For 2017, Tänak returned to M-Sport’s manufacturer squad and proved a revelation as he took his first victory at Rally Italia Sardegna, before coming out on top again on ADAC Rallye Deutschland’s asphalt.
Third in the drivers’ standings was his best result by some margin and he confirmed a switch to Toyota Gazoo Racing for 2018.