When it was announced last October, people smiled, nodded and made the right noises. As soon as backs were turned, faces dropped and knowing looks fired left, right and center.
Hushed tones conveyed the message about Ott Tänak joining Thierry Neuville at Hyundai Motorsport.
“It won’t last,” we were told by those apparently in the know.
Granted, we’re still very much in a coronavirus-lengthened honeymoon period, but there’s no hint of disharmony. Talking privately with team members at every level, the word is of unity and togetherness.
Team principal Andrea Adamo smiles. He heard the same stories predicting a fairly rapid divorce.
“Do you know what has impressed me?” he told DirtFish. “It’s the way Thierry has been so humble about Ott joining us. He has been open-minded and willing to do everything he can to make it work.
“It’s the same coming from Ott. When they are testing, they are working together and moving the car in the right direction. We are making good progress. People were worried about competition in the team, but we have co-operation.
“Of course, we know when the rally starts, it’s all about the competition. Away from the rallies, we’re together.”
Adamo was quick to sing Tänak’s praises.
“He’s a guy a little bit like [Gabriele] Tarquini. He jumped in the car and knew exactly what he wanted. More importantly, he was able to prioritize the development.
“He’s not the guy coming from the test and saying: ‘OK, it’s this for the rear diff, now look at the steering; engine needs to go this way and now we talk about the dampers.’
“No. Ott clearly planned what he wanted and which jobs to focus on. I see this sort of thing with Tarquini and honestly, it makes a driver’s input into the development priceless.
“People asked me when Ott came, they said: ‘Ott will be a challenge for you…’ I tell them no, Ott coming to Hyundai is not a challenge; Ott coming to Hyundai is an opportunity.”
Neuville and Tänak were positive and enthusiastic in their praise of the progress made with the i20 Coupe WRC following their test in Finland last month. Adamo says the steps made have come partly from the hard work and focus shown during the lockdown period earlier this year.
While the team’s not planning any homologation jokers for the remainder of this season, there has been work on the aerodynamics and engine.
“We worked hard in lockdown, and we worked hard, hard, hard in the test,” said Adamo. “We took good information and made good improvements. We keep pushing now, but I am really proud of what my people achieved at these difficult times.
“Honestly, I think we are starting to see some changes coming from the re-organizations I made in the team last year. It’s not going to happen overnight, but we can see real progress. This is good. But this is only really good if we win!”