Ott Tänak stunned the service park with a gutsy, white-knuckle drive to deny Kalle Rovanperä and Toyota the Rally Finland victory everybody expected last year.
But the Estonian isn’t expecting a repeat this year as he prepares for his first Rally Finland in M-Sport’s Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid.
Competing for Hyundai last year, Tänak produced what many feel was his finest World Rally Championship victory to date – driving through his discomfort in the car to lay down a scorching pace that was too hot for the rest to handle.
Tänak has, at times, struggled to feel completely at one with his car since he has returned to M-Sport too, but the 2019 world champion is not expecting himself to repeat last year’s heroics.
“Last year the case was very much different because [it was the] first time for these cars and it was a lot to discover,” Tänak told DirtFish.
“This year obviously I’m sure Hyundai has strengthened the weak points they had last year and so too Toyota, so they know very much where they are going this year. So I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a completely different story.”
Tänak did however show strong pace two weeks ago in Estonia, winning six of the first eight stages as he fought to overcome a five-minute penalty for an engine change.
But he feels a lot of that was down to his run on the Lõuna-Eesti Ralli two weeks prior, which gave him an advantage over his competitors.
“I would say definitely the strength was the small rally we did before Estonia, so we were already in a high-speed rhythm compared to everybody else,” Tänak explained.
His team-mate Pierre-Louis Loubet and Toyota drivers Rovanperä and Elfyn Evans all benefited from similar experience ahead of Rally Finland, taking on last weekend’s HYAcenter Rally.
“It was clear to see that because of our, let’s say, one-day rally experience from before basically we’d done one day before and our rhythm was a bit higher, but later when the other guys caught up to the rhythm obviously the performance level was that much higher so we were no match anymore,” Tänak added.
“I would say we are a bit on the maximum at the moment. I believe you can’t do much more than we are doing.”