Ott Tänak has retired from the opening round of the 2021 World Rally Championship, the Monte Carlo Rally.
Tänak, co-driven by Martin Järveoja, had led the rally after the first pair of stages on Thursday but soon slipped back to fourth on Friday’s leg before rising to third at the end of the day.
He then suffered a puncture and also damaged his wheel on Saturday’s opener, La Bréole – Selonnet, which cost him over a minute and two positions as he fell to fifth, before things got even worse on the succeeding Saint-Clément – Freissinières test.
A slow puncture at the start of SS10 – ironically the same stage he spectacularly crashed on in 2020 – developed into a full delamination, and Tänak lost almost nine minutes to stage winner and rally leader Sébastien Ogier, dropping down to 15th when a 1m50s penalty for his resultant late arrival to service was applied.
Just making it back to service in Gap was a struggle as Tänak had taken just five tires with him for Saturday’s first two stages, and with two damaged he had to complete the transit section on a tire that was down on the rim.
He did make it back to service but Hyundai had to retire the car, and as the event moves its base to Monaco for Sunday’s final leg there is no SuperRally rules for Tänak to restart under with just tire fitting zones remaining on the rally’s itinerary.
“Unfortunately, another early finish to Monte for us,” he said.
“On the first stage, I hit a stone – or something similar – and damaged the wheel, which caused a puncture. It was my mistake, something I didn’t notice during the recce.
“From the very beginning of the second stage we had a slow puncture, so it was a long way to come back on the rubber. We tried to put the first damaged tire back on the car to make the road section, but it didn’t last.
“Nothing much more we could do. We made it to service but had to retire the car. With no opportunity to re-join tomorrow that’s the end of the rally for us.”
Ogier leads the rally with five stages remaining, one of which is the sole test of Saturday afternoon. Thierry Neuville is currently fourth overall in the top Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, behind a Toyota Yaris WRC podium lockout, and is 1.4s adrift of third place after winning SS10.