Abiteboul: We won’t ask Tänak to change

Hyundai will tweak the i20 N Rally1 to suit the Estonian, not the other way around


Hyundai team principal Cyril Abiteboul won’t ask Ott Tänak to change his driving style to suit the i20 N Rally1, but will focus on tweaking the car to make it work for the Estonian.

The 2019 world champion’s return to Hyundai hasn’t gone to plan so far, with Tänak openly talking of the need for less mistakes on his side – a visit to a snowbank in the French Alps and Sweden have left him fifth in the title race after two rounds. But there’s also concern about a throttle-related issue which hit all i20s in Monte Carlo might be exacerbated by Tänak’s driving style.

Abiteboul was emphatic in his approach to solving the issue.

“You don’t,” he told DirtFish, “start to question the driving style of a world champion.

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“I think the way that he’s driving the car is exposing [an issue], but it’s exposing a weakness of the car, nothing else. Let’s not put it the other way around.

“The first thing we need to do is to fix that weakness, to fix that issue, which is an issue that’s been here for a while. But because the car was, in our opinion, so good in Monte Carlo, [Tänak] was capable of pushing certain areas that he was not pushing two years ago when he was driving that same car with that same software.

“So, first and foremost, we need to get that sorted. It’s not going to be sorted here [in Sweden]. It doesn’t need to be sorted here, because the grip conditions are totally different, so he shouldn’t be suffering here in the same way that he was suffering in Monte Carlo.

“But that issue, which is an issue, needs to be addressed [for future rallies].”

Abiteboul was right in his assertion that the mapping issue wouldn’t rear its head in Sweden. Tänak was more critical of his own driving than of his Rally1 machine through round two.

More importantly, Tänak exposing a glitch in the Hyundai’s software is proof that he’s already been a valuable acquisition for the team. His way of driving has revealed a weakness in the car, one that can now be fixed for the benefit of all the team’s drivers. In this way, he’s pushing the Alzenau-based squad to improve, and giving them a clear direction for the ongoing development of the car. That’s exactly why Abiteboul hired him.

“Absolutely,” continued Abiteboul, “you could argue that indeed [Tänak’s driving] style is a bit different from Thierry [Neuville]. But again, it’s up to the car to adapt to all drivers – in particular when they are world champions – than the other way around.”