Ott Tänak has begrudgingly accepted team orders issued by Hyundai to hold second place on the Acropolis Rally – but stressed it was a choice made by Hyundai Motorsport president Sean Kim, not deputy team director Julien Moncet.
A second low-scoring rally in a row for Kalle Rovanperä has opened up a possibility for Tänak to remain in the race for the World Rally Championship drivers’ title, where a win would close the gap to less than 50 points with 90 remaining.
A win on both the rally and powerstage, coupled with a zero score for Rovanperä, would reduce the gap to 42 points.
But rather than swapping Tänak and rally leader Thierry Neuville, Hyundai has enforced a stay-in-position order for its trio of drivers after the first stage of Sunday as it’s set to collect its first ever podium lockout on a WRC round.
Tänak confirmed that, rather than Moncet, it was the team president Kim that had issued the order to stay in place.
“There was no phone call from Julien Moncet. It was clearly from the president himself, to stop pushing Thierry and hold the positions,” Tänak told DirtFish.
“In the way, we need to respect the decisions.
“From our personal point of view, it would still have been nice to put some pressure on Kalle.
“The season is not finished yet but obviously, yeah, I dunno, the decision is made so nothing we can change at the moment.”
While Tänak was willing to accept the order, he questioned whether the same call would have been made had he and Neuville been the other way around.
When it was put to him that team decisions did not align with the suggestion that there was no number one driver at Hyundai, Tänak responded: “I mean yeah, if probably the situation was opposite then there would have been some decisions. It is what it is.”
Team-mate Neuville however laughed when he was told of Tänak’s theory.
“I don’t think so,” Neuville told DirtFish.
“I think what we all want is a 1-2-3, it would be a historical moment for the team, especially for me given my time with the team.
“I know what we went through, how hard we worked and if we get the 1-2-3 back in Korea they would be very proud.”
Tänak also had a dig at Dani Sordo not executing a team order issued to him before Friday’s final stage, where the two-time WRC event winner was instructed to let Tänak take fifth place to improve his road position for the following day.
“The message [to hold position on Sunday] also came 2-3 minutes before the start of the stage and we were able to see the phone, not like on Friday where people said they were not able to see their phone.
“I mean, it’s their decision, we are working for the team and we respect their decision. All together as a team, they’ve done a big job. So I can understand they want to finish it.”
As rally leader, Neuville naturally agreed with the ruling but stressed it was “the team’s decision” rather than anything he’d demanded himself.
“It wasn’t that clear for us this morning, I think it was still all to play for so we kept on going with a decent speed through the stages, avoiding the issues and it worked quite well,” Neuville said.
Neuville’s patience was then tested when DirtFish’s Colin Clark pointed out that swapping the drivers wouldn’t have affected Hyundai’s formation finish, but did disadvantage Tänak’s drivers’ title bid.
“Stop asking the same question,” Neuville responded, before walking away from the interview when Clark pointed out he was just trying to get to the bottom of the reasoning.