Ott Tänak says his retirement from Rally Estonia was the result of an additional two tire punctures on the fourth stage of the event, having already suffered one on SS3.
Tänak, who won his home round of the World Rally Championship last year, was leading again after the SS2 Arula stage that started Friday’s action, but things soon started to spiral as he collected a front-right puncture on the next test.
A big comeback charge was expected from Tänak, who had dropped to seventh overall, on SS4 and he looked to be delivering. But the 2019 world champion ran wide on a right-hand bend on the stage and dropped off the road and into a field, before aggressively rejoined the route.
Tänak slowed his Hyundai soon after and pulled off the stage and down an access road, retiring his i20 Coupe WRC.
There was some speculation that there may have been radiator damage, but Tänak confirmed it was a double puncture that led to him retiring.
With just one spare in the trunk and therefore only two of his five tires fully inflated, there was no way Tänak could legally bring his car back to service and still compete in the rally.
“On the beginning of next stage I basically went wide in a corner and basically I went on the field, and during that I knocked off two tires so I had another two punctures,” Tänak explained.
“We had no spare anymore and it was not possible to continue.”
Tänak already has a suspended one-round ban from the season-opening Monte Carlo Rally for driving his car back to service on three wheels.
Hyundai team principal Andrea Adamo said “we have to understand why” Tänak picked up his first puncture but was still content with Hyundai’s morning, which ended with Craig Breen in second and Thierry Neuville fourth.
Breen’s progress was hampered twice by getting caught behind the ailing M-Sport Ford of Gus Greensmith, but his times have been adjusted to make up for for what he lost.
“We are not lost in the middle of nowhere,” Adamo said.
“The things [that] happened to Craig has been quite annoying but it’s clear, I’m not a driver, but when you get twice disturbed in this way the rhythm and the things are not the same.
“It’s anyhow after this morning loop 4.8 seconds and the others are not lost in the middle of nowhere so it’s still a long rally.”