Reigning World Rally Champion Ott Tänak is yet to come to terms with the performance of his Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC car on gravel after the first loose surface round of the season in México.
Tänak moved to Hyundai after becoming champion last year with Toyota, and started life with his new team with a dramatic crash on the Monte Carlo Rally. He did make the podium in Sweden, and México, but is unsure about the package he has underneath him.
He started Friday on Rally México with a new aero package on the i20 and from sixth on the road, and immediately showed well on pace.
However, on the second stage of the day he made an error that knocked his suspension out of joint, and despite continuing to set fast times throughout Friday and Saturday – taking six stage wins – he was rarely impressed by his car.
Those stage wins did help Tänak recover to second overall, but post-rally he was still at odds about how much he could push his Hyundai on the loose surface.
“It was a tough, demanding day. I can say it was definitely not coming easy,” Tänak told DirtFish.
“Since the beginning I was never too confident, I was always looking and trying to understand what is happening and where are the limits and things like this. It was never easy, but of course in the end I’m happy.
“The team gave me a lot of support, and also Thierry. So thanks to the team’s job, that’s where we are now.”
Through both runs of Derramadero on Saturday, in which he ran fifth on the road, Tänak was fastest of all. But his post-stage responses were “I’m not confident to push” and “I really can’t push, so I’m doing all I can”.
He was then just 2.5 seconds slower than his stage winning Hyundai team-mate Thierry Neuville, who was also recovering from an early setback, on Saturday’s longest stage at 15.53 miles, Guanajuatito. His response this time was even worse: “It’s an amazingly bad feeling. It’s not working at all.”
Explaining those comments in the post-event press conference, Tänak said: “It has been a very demanding weekend.
“I would say I haven’t felt completely confident to push in the stages. I have been trying to approach in a way to stay out of trouble. Friday morning proved already that there is no way we were going to make it through by pushing.
“The car is definitely fast. It has a lot of potential but there are many things which I need to learn and some things quite specific. I am sure we have a lot of work to do, and, finally we have some experience on gravel.”