Tänak: ‘WRC not under control’

Ott Tänak joins Hyundai team-mate Thierry Neuville in criticizing the proposed future for the WRC

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Ott Tänak has been tricky at times in the past couple of years. There’s been a truculence born out of frustration with his working environment. And the media has, more often than not, copped it. DirtFish included.

Talking to the Estonian in Naivasha on Wednesday was uplifting. Inspirational even. We delved beyond the minutiae of the moment, the miserable start to the season. We went to the heart of what matters to us here at DirtFish as much as it matters to the 2019 World Rally Champion. The future of our sport.

Like everybody, Tänak has observed the results of the FIA’s WRC Working Group and, until now, he’d kept his powder dry. But when DirtFish pressed him on hybrid-less Rally1 cars and go-faster Rally2, the eyes lit up and the fire burned bright.

Typically forthright and unapologetic, the Hyundai Motorsport driver let rip.

“This has made things complicated for all the teams, the manufacturers,” said Tänak. “And it’s put a lot of people in a very difficult situation, since the new season is coming very close. And it’s something that is not even voted [on] yet.

“Speaking about all this, I guess the tricky part is that we can see the sport, somehow, is really not under control. Some random decisions are coming from random people from year to year and there is no real vision where we want to go. These kinds of things are really worrying.

“The sport has not been in a good place and there are very few teams who are still keeping this sport on its feet. These [WRC Working Group] decisions were done without even considering, discussing with these very few teams. For the hybrid, the decision was taken and it was agreed until the end of 2026. Everyone was prepared to have it there. So, all the teams have been ready to carry it.”

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The end of hybrid units in the WRC was lauded by fans – but Tänak is worried about the consequences

Tänak also raised a specific concern about the potential regulation change for the sport’s top two tiers, adding: “We are reducing a lot of power in Rally1 cars where the chassis and the roll cage is made for protection. And then we are putting a lot more power in a Rally2 car where you don’t have this kind of safety and things.

“I’m really surprised that these guys are happy to take this responsibility for these decisions.

“I mean, yes, the rally is always about risk, but I’m surprised they are doing this because, since a long time, safety has always been number one. I’m surprised [by] the way things are handled.”

Tänak talked of his frustrations at the lack of promotion in the sport – and admitted he wanted to hear more from the FIA on its proposed promotion team.

“I’ve never heard anything about this,” he said. “It’s something we’ve been pushing for a long time as well. The sport is very special and it’s a shame that very few people know about this. Yes, our fan base is huge and the petrolheads… they are there. They’re always there and they always will be there.

“So, it’s just how we get how we get this message to the people outside, but this is something that’s been on the table since a long, long time.

“How we’re going to achieve this? It’s difficult to see at the moment.”

Words:David Evans, Colin Clark