Demob-happy? Maybe just happy. Either would work for Ott Tänak on Wednesday night. Especially when he was talking about Japanese nature and his ability to cook.
There was an element of the surreal talking to the 2019 world champion on the eve of his final outing with his current employer. But his mood was good, so the talk was teppanyaki.
“Even if I’m not so good in cooking, even this I can do, so quite impressive,” he told DirtFish. “It’s actually quite fun here. You know, good to share some kind of activities with friends and cook yourself.”
Tänak’s two years with Toyota through 2018 and ’19 mean he’s no stranger to this part of the world.
He added: “I’ve been quite lucky to be in this Toyota City quite many times before. I visited Japan quite often and it’s been always a nice place.
“I really enjoy the nature here, you know, how everything has been taken care, all the gardens and things I really enjoy and at the same time also the food culture which I love. So coming here with all these lovely people, it’s a very different place, for sure.”
Gardens, cooking, nature. All of this is a very long way from stone-faced Ott castigating Hyundai for another failure or false dawn.
Overwhelmingly, Tänak’s a man at peace with his decision. It’s almost as though he’s taken control of his own destiny. But right now it’s still about where he’s been rather than where he’s going.
“The decision to leave wasn’t easy,” he said. “The final decision was obviously [coming] very late, but altogether the year has been long and a lot of things have been happening, you know, so quite stressful in a way. In the end, that was the call.
“There were lots of things making this decision, basically they all came together.”
And the future?
“We will see what the time brings to us and we will find out. At the moment, I have nothing much more to say as I really don’t have anything at the moment.”
That’s the more medium term, but the short-term future starts with one last rally in the blue and orange and a Rally Japan debut.
What does he think about the stages?
“They are definitely very demanding, very challenging,” he said. “I would say every day has a stage which is extremely tricky. There are stages which are a bit more fun and flowing but there are stages which are very slow, technical, lot of grip changes, quite a lot and many roads actually which, you know, have not been in use for a long time.
“It’s going to be challenging in places. And very different to Europe. It’s mostly just a car-width of road, and… let’s say, for me, it was a bit challenging in the recce. It’s difficult to really mark every corner because it’s completely offset.
“Normally, rallies in Europe, or generally rallies on asphalt are kind of medium-speed to high-speed, but this one is probably slower than Cyprus on gravel.”
After winning the fastest of the fast rallies with Hyundai, going out on an event that’s ‘slower than Cyprus on gravel’ isn’t exactly ideal.
But you definitely get the impression that Tänak will be happy just to close the door on certain elements of the 2022 season.