Tänak pins strong Croatia pace on “lucky tire choice”

The 2019 world champion took over a minute from Kalle Rovanperä in just three stages


Ott Tänak has put his sensational Saturday morning Croatia Rally speed, which allowed him to steal over a minute from rally leader Kalle Rovanperä across just three stages, down to a “lucky tire choice”.

The 2019 world champion had become Rovanperä’s chaser-in-chief on Saturday morning after his Hyundai team-mate Thierry Neuville was penalized a minute for driving excessively over the speed limit on a road section on Friday.

Both Rovanperä and Tänak (along with Oliver Solberg who crashed and caused the cancellation of SS9 when his car went up in flames) chose a selection of four wet compound Pirellis and two softs for the first loop of Saturday.

Rovanperä however chose to fit his four wets on the first stage that ran, SS10, which cost him time. But things got worse for the rally leader when he picked up a puncture on an incredibly tricky SS11 where Tänak beat everyone by 18.6s.

It’s unclear what Rovanperä could have managed had he not collected a puncture, but on the right tires Tänak was able to dominate and close to within 16.8s of the leader at the end of the loop.

“It was a lucky tire choice in the end,” Tänak told DirtFish.

“We actually didn’t have this information as well that it’s going to be so much water on this one stage but in the end it played in our favor, so it was good.”


“For sure we’ve been also quite good without some major issues so the car is running smoothly and that is definitely helping as well,” he added.

“Other than that definitely we can improve but luckily this rally is not so much a clean Tarmac rally it’s full of dirt and so far we haven’t seen any Tarmac stages, so it’s been quite a different one.”

Rovanperä meanwhile admitted seeing his 1m23.3s reduced down to 16.8s is “of course not so good”.

“I knew that today was long [and we had to] try and avoid all this and we couldn’t avoid it, and now it’s a bit more tough.”

It sets up a thrilling third Tänak vs Rovanperä lead battle for the third time in WRC history after squabbles on Rally Estonia 2020 and Arctic Rally Finland the following season.

Tänak won both.


“It’s a long afternoon, some tricky stages so let’s get through this first and then we’ll see [if we can win],” Tänak cautioned.

Rovanperä’s initial response when asked if he could win was similar – “let’s see” but with 46 championship points on the board to Tänak’s five, a victory is perhaps less important.

“If we can stay on the pace of Ott – he has been really fast now in the morning, so yeah it’s going to be more tough but let’s see,” said Rovanperä.

“We don’t need to push for the last maximum, we also need good points from here.”