The last two times Rally Finland has run, Ott Tänak has won it. But he’s won it at the wheel of a Toyota Yaris WRC. Listen to him and he’ll tell you the hope for a Jyväskylä hat-trick is a forlorn one this week.
At 76 points behind with 90 left on the board, the championship’s not looking too chipper either. Is it time to focus on 2022?
Not a bit of it. The Estonian’s a realist about a rally based in Toyota’s backyard, but he’s still going to give it everything he’s got.
“We will definitely push hard and push like hell,” Tänak told DirtFish. “Definitely we are not the favorites this time – we know where we are and where we are from. [The] Toyotas will be big favorites and hard to beat, but we will do everything from our side that even if they win, they will not get it too easy. We will try to make their life hard.”
And Tänak, who has registered just one win in a season so far blighted by mechanical issues (apart from in Estonia, where he was master of his own downfall at home), said there were still lessons to be learned from the balance of 2021.
“When we go racing, we go racing,” he said, “we’re not going to just hang around.
“Even if we’re not continuing with this car or with this generation of car, we are the same team and same people and we can learn every day and understand each other and different situations better every day.
“We still need to improve and work as a team, so I would say it’s a pretty good chance for us as a team to get better, to improve and to make sure we are strong already from the beginning of next year.”
Talking of next season, was there much to say on the subject of the hybrid i20?
He smiled thinly and referenced DirtFish’s story on the development of the next generation car.
“Like you have already said, the actual car is still on the way. There’s not much to talk about at the moment.”
What Tänak does want to talk about is this week: the rally ahead.
First on the road, it will be quite the same – it’s not a big differenceOtt Tänak
As you’d expect for a man unbeaten in Finland – and that includes his stunning Arctic win in February – at world championship level since 2017, he’s looking forward to crossing the Baltic Sea bound for Jyväskylä.
“If the weather is like it is here, with a nice autumn, it can be pretty beautiful,” he said. “The trees are full of colors and the road is humid with high grip and it’s cool in the car – it’s perfect rally weather.
“Normally in Scandinavia at this time of the year, the roads are always a bit more humid in the morning and I would say it will be fair for everybody. First on the road, it will be quite the same – it’s not a big difference. It’s definitely not the same like in summer time when you have more loose on the top. It should be nice, consistent conditions.”
And the dark? That’s something new for Rally Finland.
“If it’s dark it’s dark,” said Tänak. “We put the lights on and have the same job to do – but Finland can be more of a challenge in the dark, even on the straights with the crests and jumps you get some dark spots and with that speed you need some good confidence. It should be good fun.”