Ott Tänak’s message to Hyundai Motorsport is clear: there is plenty more work to do, and some “big things” at that.
Hyundai has been on the backfoot with its Rally1 challenger since before the 2022 season even began but, through Tänak’, claimed its first win of the World Rally Championship’s hybrid era on last weekend’s Rally Italy.
Given how critical Tänak had been after the first gravel rally of the season, Rally Portugal, just two weeks earlier, it was a somewhat surprising result.
But although the 2019 world champion seemed happier with his i20 N Rally1’s chassis, he is acutely aware that the car needs further development to be able to regularly challenge Toyota’s GR Yaris Rally1 and M-Sport’s Ford Puma variant.
“We know we have so many things to do, and big things,” Tänak told DirtFish.
“It’s definitely a big job for the guys, because we haven’t done any development on gravel for this car at all. So I mean now every rally is like a development for us, and step-by-step we are learning and just have to see how fast we can react.
“This is the most important, so if we want to stay in the championship we have to be very effective.”
Despite the breakthrough result, Tänak’s Sardinia wasn’t without its issues. His car dropped to three-wheel-drive on the Friday afternoon but the damage was mitigated when the next and final two stages of the day were canceled.
Team-mate Thierry Neuville also ran into a driveshaft problem that dumped him out of the running before he crashed in his haste to recover the ground.
But on a personal level, Tänak is now at least back where he belongs – near the sharp end of the world championship.
His win, his first since February 2021 and just his third since joining Hyundai at the turn of the decade, lifted him up to third in the points, three points adrift of Neuville.
“Yeah, it’s been definitely tough,” Tänak admitted.
“But we keep working and this was one of the weekends where everything was working and we actually had some luck in places as well. So it was not that bad.”
Deputy team director Julien Moncet agrees that Italy was a great result that gives the team confidence, but that doesn’t mean its to-do list has suddenly been thrown into the trash.
“We knew anyway that Sardinia and Kenya would be a key moment for the season and we definitely need to get a strong result as well in Kenya, to catch up to Toyota,” Moncet told DirtFish.
“We know now the car, OK we still have some reliability issues but in the end, everyone had, and we have a competitive car here. So we are looking for a strong result in Kenya.
“We know what we have to do,” he added. “We can identify all the issues and we can fix them. If we are able to fix all of them before Kenya that’s another question. Some of them yes, maybe not all, but this is our job, we will not give up.”