Tänak leaves it late to head WRC’s shakedown return

Reigning champion fastest by 1.5s in preparation for his first home WRC round


World Rally Champion Ott Tänak recorded two late runs to go fastest by 1.5 seconds on the Rally Estonia shakedown stage, the World Rally Championship’s first competitive action in almost six months.

Tänak had been fourth after the majority of Rally1 cars had run, having set just one initial shakedown time in his Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC.

But the home favorite then set two faster times to leap to the head of the pile, setting a best time of 2m56.8s on the 3.87-mile Abisaare test.

That left Tänak well clear of M-Sport pilot Esapekka Lappi – the only WRC driver to have five shakedown runs – whose best was a 2m58.3s set on the fifth and final of those attempts.

He was in second place until Toyota’s points leader Sébastien Ogier went back out some time later and bettered Lappi’s best effort by 0.1s.

Ogier’s team-mate Kalle Rovanperä was 0.1s slower than Lappi in fourth, and had a gap twice as large as that to Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville in fifth.

Elfyn Evans was slowest of the three major title contenders, going sixth fastest in his Toyota Yaris WRC and 0.6s down on Neuville.

Rovanperä, Ogier, and Evans all failed to improve on their second run, but drivers had better luck on their third runs.

Craig Breen was 10th after his first attempt but, like Tänak, was another late improver as he rose to seventh, 0.2s adrift of Evans’ best time.

Toyota’s junior driver Takamoto Katsuta had two shakedown attempts; he overshot a junction on his first pass, but improved well on his second and ended up eighth.

Hyundai junior Pierre-Louis Loubet was similarly impressive on his WRC debut in the Rally1 class, setting a time 0.2s slower than Katsuta’s.

Teemu Suninen – who resides in Estonia – could only round out the top 10 for M-Sport despite three runs at the stage and sustained damage on his final pass. and was 2.4s slower than compatriot and team-mate Lappi, while Gus Greensmith was 11th in the third Fiesta WRC.

WRC2 points leader Mads Östberg set the quickest time in the category in his Citroën C3 R5, edging Hyundai’s Ole Christian Veiby by 0.9s.

Veiby’s team-mate Nikolay Gryazin had been fastest after the initial runs but only found an improvement of 0.9s on his second to wind up fourth fastest and 3.6s slower than Östberg, who had three runs.

Pontus Tidemand split the Hyundai’s with his Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo, 2.5s down on Östberg. Tidemand’s team-mate Eyvind Brynildsen was fifth, 5.7s down on Östberg, with M-Sport’s sole entrant Adrien Fourmaux rounding out the WRC2 runners.

Oliver Solberg and Jari Huttunen set the pace in WRC3.

Shakedown times

1 Tänak (Hyundai)
2 Ogier (Toyota) +1.4s
3 Lappi (M-Sport Ford) +1.5s
4 Rovanperä (Toyota) +1.6s
5 Neuville (Hyundai) +1.8s
6 Evans (Toyota) +2.4s
7 Breen (Hyundai) +2.6s
8 Katsuta (Toyota) +3.2s
9 Loubet (Hyundai) +3.4s
10 Suninen (M-Sport Ford) +3.9s

Words:Luke Barry

Photography:Jarek Jõepera/Red Bull Content Pool