Tänak suffered puncture on first Saturday stage

Current rally leader was "very, very careful" on rest of loop following early scare


Rally Estonia leader Ott Tänak has revealed he picked up a puncture on Saturday morning’s opening test, explaining his 2.8-second deficit to stage winner and early leader Rovanperä.

Hyundai World Rally Championship driver Tänak leads the event by 6.8s over Hyundai team-mate Craig Breen after six stages, but has only been fastest on two of those and won one of them by 0.1s.

The World Rally Champion explained there could be more pace in the tank as he drove with some caution to avoid picking up further punctures, with just one spare tire bolted into the back of his i20 Coupe WRC.

“It’s been a very, very challenging day, a lot of new stages and it’s been tricky to read all the conditions, the grip is changing quite often,” he said at midday service.

“In the first stage we had a puncture actually and after we had to manage it through; I was trying to be very, very careful to get back here and we got [here] but let’s say I was really looking forward to this service.

“It was just this one stage because I lost time to make this back, and after I was just managing to make it back here and to get the new tires to go out again and make some clean stages.”

But Tänak said he was happy with how his car has been performing in comparison to the Toyota, which he drove last year and which is understood to be the car to beat on fast stages such as those on Rally Estonia.

“I think generally the car is performing quite well,” he said.

“Let’s say it depends on the characteristics or a bit the surface of the stage where we can perform better compared to Toyota probably but still the feeling is there, everything is working so nothing really to worry about at the moment.

“I’m happy to be back here [in service] and looking forward to next loop. It’s challenging and we really need to be very focused.”

2020ESTONIA_FD_ 036

Photo: Hyundai Motorsport

Team-mate Thierry Neuville was less happy with the performance of his Hyundai initially, but said some changes before the last two stages of the loop seemed to make a difference.

“I find it quite difficult out there this morning,” said Neuville, who is currently third.

“We knew we had to push immediately very hard because it’s difficult to catch time back once you have lost a bit.

“We tried to make the best of the morning. I was missing some confidence in the fast [corners], mainly due to loss of traction in some parts, but I quickly was able to improve the setting a little bit, get myself a bit more into the rhythm as well and from there on the stage times were not so bad.

“Second fastest, fastest on the last stage there, 11 seconds from the lead, four seconds from second place, three Hyundai’s 1-2-3 and both guys [Tänak and Craig Breen] have done the rally here last year in the WRC car in front so I can’t complain.”

Neuville said he is not interested in catching rally leader Tänak though, and instead is sticking to his pre-event objective of beating the Toyotas of Sébastien Ogier and Elfyn Evans, who are currently fourth and fifth.

“It will be difficult,” Neuville said of his chances of overhauling the leader.

“Also road position will be swapped around so there’s very little chance I’m going to be able to fight against Ott but as I said before the rally my main target is Sébastien and Elfyn and we’re going to keep an eye on them.”

Words:Luke Barry

Photography:Hyundai Motorsport