Hyundai Motorsport driver Ott Tänak says the time has come for him to stand up and fight against the Toyota team.
Now in his second season with the Alzenau-based team Tänak says his expectations from 2021 are higher: he wants a second world championship title in three years. The Estonian recovered from his Monte Carlo crash last year with two podiums and one win before successive mechanical problems in Turkey and Sardinia scuppered his hopes of retaining his 2019 drivers’ crown.
While he starts this month’s Arctic Rally Finland 30 points down on series leader Sébastien Ogier, he maintains he has more to give.
“Definitely, my expectations this year are a lot higher than last year,” Tänak told DirtFish.
“Last year, I wanted to give time for the team to get used to me and to develop and improve. But this year, this is not the learning year anymore.
“I’m sure it’s time to stand up now and we really need to go for it, otherwise we’re going to lose the battle with the Toyotas.”
That said, Tänak isn’t overreacting to a dismal season opener for his employer. He has warned against trying to read too much into a dominant Toyota performance. Tänak led the event early on before a pair of punctures dropped him from third place and into retirement on Saturday.
Thierry Neuville salvaged third place for the Korean manufacturer while Dani Sordo had a muted run to fifth place.
“The emotions,” Tänak said, “are really not clear when we’re coming away from Monte.
“We had a lot of minor issues during the event, since the very beginning.
“We really don’t know our performance compared to Toyotas. For sure, they’re strong, but we would have been stronger as well if everything ran smoothly. But this is like this. For sure, we still have a lot of work to do.
“In the beginning, we won the first two stages, it was going all going OK. [On the] second day, we had things which were keeping us back. For sure, we shouldn’t have these small things, but still, I mean Monte gives an idea if you feel comfortable in the car or not.”
Asked to compare his round one result with the same event 12 months ago, Tänak added: “Physically, it hurts a lot less than last year. But mentally, maybe even more. Last year, we knew exactly what we did wrong. This year, so and so. This (the punctures) was a hard experience.”
While Tänak’s response to a disappointing Monte Carlo Rally might have been measured, Hyundai team principal Andrea Adamo delivered a scathing appraisal of his team’s result.
The Italian said: “This rally has finished in the same way it has gone all weekend. Clearly, it has been totally wrong. I don’t know if it is the approach of the people, or whatever, but today we have again shown our limits.
“I personally have to have a deep rethink on many things because what I have seen is far from something to make me proud and happy. Something in the approach has to be changed.”
His team lies 22 points adrift of Toyota in the manufacturers’ championship after the Japanese manufacturer also recorded a 1-2-3 finish on the powerstage, which pays manufacturer points for the first time.
Craig Breen will join Tänak and Neuville on the Arctic Rally Finland, marking his first WRC start since Rally Estonia last September.