A broken propshaft is what put Ott Tänak out of Safari Rally Kenya on the final stage of Saturday morning.
Tänak had been closing on third-placed Takamoto Katsuta despite opting for a “clean, safe” approach, trailing the Toyota Next Generation driver by 4.9 seconds.
But towards the end of the Sleeping Warrior stage, Tänak’s Hyundai i20 N Rally1 suddenly started making a horrible rattling sound, so he parked up to have a quick look under the hood.
Tänak set off again – albeit at a crawl – but pulled up just a few hundred meters later to carry out more investigative work.
Despite the best efforts of Tänak and co-driver Martin Järveoja, the crew was forced to retire from the rally.
“Basically suddenly we got some noise and immediately also some fire, and yeah basically we stopped and checked but it was somewhere in the transmission and the underbody is closed so we couldn’t really see what it was at that moment,” Tänak explained.
“We tried to continue but even slowly it was still catching fire so we would have just burnt the car down.”
Asked specifically what had given way, Tänak replied: “It’s the propshaft.”
It’s another bitter blow for what has been a difficult season for the 2019 world champion.
His fortunes had looked to have turned with victory on Rally Italy earlier this month, but the Safari is the third event (of six) this season that Tänak has retired from, and he had problems on Rally Portugal and even en route to his victory in Sardinia too.
Safari Rally Kenya is a known car-breaker and this year’s edition has been particularly rough, but Tänak doesn’t believe the rough conditions are what caused the problem.
“No it’s unrelated [to the conditions],” he said. “It’s just a mechanical issue.”