Toyota’s Kalle Rovanperä has accused Hyundai of exaggerating how bad its car is, after Ott Tänak commanded the opening stages of Rally Finland.
Over the duration of this year’s World Rally Championship Hyundai and its drivers have repeatedly highlighted the issues with the i20 N Rally1 car, with Tänak and Thierry Neuville having consistently struggled to match the Toyotas.
Prior to Finland Tänak and Neuville once again stated that they expected Rally Finland to be a struggle, but Hyundai has won three of the opening six stages and Tänak leads the rally by 6.2 seconds.
And when asked by DirtFish whether Tänak’s pace was a surprise, Rovanperä didn’t hold back with his opinion.
“It’s not a surprise, he’s always been fast here and I think when they say their car is bulls***, I think it’s not true,” he said.
“They are quite fast anyway. So yeah, they seem to be fighting hard.”
Esapekka Lappi agreed with his team-mate, saying that Tänak is “playing the games” when talking down his potential.
“He did the same yesterday on the shakedown,” Lappi said, “[on the] first pass he was six seconds off the pace. He just wanted to play the game. I’m sure he can do this [pace] all the weekend.”
There’s no denying that Tänak is currently in the groove on the high speed Finnish stages at the moment, but Hyundai deputy team director Julien Moncet doesn’t believe that means his team has been lying about its overall pace.
He is adamant that the i20 N still needs a lot of work to be able to be fully competitive with Toyota, and that it’s simply a case of Tänak being able to compensate for the car’s misgivings.
“Well I think we have a different point of view. We know that we have a lot of work to do,” Moncet explained when made aware of Rovanperä’s comments.
“We see that obviously Ott is very strong here. It’s a rally that fits him but Thierry is struggling a lot more.
“So you see we have very good and not as good I would say.
“We know we have a lot to do and Ott is really giving 200% of the car.
“There is nothing more we can get out, so we have to work.
“I don’t think we are lying. We are just aware of where we are and Ott is doing the rest.”
Neuville also added that his team-mate is taking some huge risks in order to carry the speed, something that he isn’t prepared to do.
As a result, he’s languishing down in seventh, over 20 seconds behind Tänak.
“Yeah he has been quick but I think the level of risk is very high.
“I’m not capable of taking such risk on such roads. I won’t go that hard, but yeah I mean we focus now on the fight with the cars in front of us.
“I could feel that things didn’t come together.
“Many flat out corners in my notes and I just wasn’t capable of going flat. So no trust in the behavior and always afraid to make a mistake.”
Tänak echoed that sentiment.
“We still would like to get it a bit more comfortable that the pace would come in a more normal way, so let’s see if we can learn something,” he said, looking ahead to the afternoon.
“For sure we try to change something, it might go in the wrong direction it might go in the right direction but we have to find out. Otherwise to do all the rally like this, next two days, it can be a bit risky.”