How Italy shows the instinctive driving Tänak’s tunneling for

The i20 hasn't matched Tänak much since they joined together, but Sardinia is showing what's changed at Hyundai


When he’s not quoting George Orwell, winning world championships or making Hyundai i20 Coupe WRCs go faster, Andrea Adamo is a man who can be relied upon for a fine line in philosophy. And holes.

He gets it from his grandfather.

Asked by DirtFish why Ott Tänak looked like a man who’s unearthed his mojo, the Italian trotted out his usual line about his team working hard. We know they work hard. But they’re not just working hard this year. The team in Alzenau have been hard at it for some time now – including last season, when the Estonian was in the i20 for the first time.

Or maybe they weren’t working hard last year. Is that the case, Andrea?

The Adamo moment. The nanosecond-long steely stare as he composes his reply.

“My grandad,” he told DirtFish, “also says to dig a hole and fill it [in] is also working hard. But it doesn’t bring really nothing.”

Interesting. So Hyundai was digging holes and filling them in last year?

“Maybe we were making many holes and filling other ones, not digging holes and filling the very same one. Now we learn how to dig holes and keep them open.”

For Ott, it’s not holes, it’s gloves. Or a glove and how it fits his hand. It’s not completely snug just yet, but it’s getting better.

By his own admission, he’s driving somebody else’s car right now. The i20 is, understandably, seen as a Neuville car.

“The [Ford] Fiesta, I work myself since the beginning and we worked the other one (Toyota Yaris WRC) out as well,” said Tänak.


“It depends how the car is first meant to be driven and sometimes these things are not easy to change.

“If you want to find the speed to dominate then you can’t just do this with adjusting your driving style. If you want to dominate, the car needs to work for you and you need to be free to drive as you wish and as your instinct works.”

Perhaps for the first time – certainly the first time since Estonia last year – Tänak looked like a man driving instinctively in Sardinia yesterday. Yes, he ruled Lapland in February, but there were still some surprises with the car in Finland. Today was more of the old Ott.

“It looks like there is some light in the tunnel,” he told DirtFish in Portugal. “If you compare with when I first came here one-and-a-half years ago, it looks like things are moving a lot forward. The plan is to come out of the tunnel in Sardinia.”

Forgive another metaphor, but Friday on the Italian island was about Tänak’s sublime drive to dominate the morning, winning every stage from fourth on the road, before controlling proceedings in the afternoon.

Forget holes, gloves and tunnels, it was just great to see the Estonian looking in-tune with a car again.

He heads into the weekend sitting on a 19.4-second advantage over team-mate Dani Sordo, but perhaps his real rival is Sébastien Ogier in third. The Frenchman’s 36.2s down the road after a stellar opening day of his own.

What a sensational WRC weekend we’re in for as we wait to see if Ogier can reel in the two Korean cars ahead or if Tänak does indeed find his way back out of the darkness and into the light.