The last time Ott Tänak went to Belgium, he won.
This weekend he’s back, but there’ll be no repeat.
That’s because ‘World’ has been traded for ‘Belgian’ on the entry list as Tänak and Martin Järveoja head to Dinant for Rallye des Ardennes, round three of this year’s Belgian Rally Championship which doesn’t cater for hybrid Rally1 cars in its regulations.
That means Tänak can only run as a course car. But that’s no stress, as it’s not another victory in Belgium that’s on the 2019 world champion’s mind.
This is all being done with an eye on Croatia – a rally Tänak of course missed out on victory on last year by just a handful of seconds.
Ardennes’ 12 stages, plus the pre-event test in Croatia, will be key for Tänak to dial himself into a Puma Rally1 he described as a “mismatch” to him two weeks ago in México, and which he struggled to fully gel with on the bone dry Tarmac of the Monte Carlo Rally too.
“Obviously on Tarmac I was struggling a lot more than on gravel,” Tänak told DirtFish, “so it’s quite necessary to do a bit of preparation.
“Then we are doing a small event [Ardennes], probably not testing too much. I just do probably a bit of mileage.
“But at least it gives some idea for the test day.”
M-Sport team principal Richard Millener added that it was vital for Tänak to take part in the Ardennes event so he and the team can “hit the ground running” when they take part in the official pre-event test for Croatia.
“From the start of the year we were looking for an opportunity to familiarize ourselves with a dry Tarmac event before using our full pre-event test day for Croatia and Rallye Ardennes fits the bill perfectly,” said Millener.
“We are so restricted with our test days this year that we really need to get the most out of them when we do use them. Ardennes means we can effectively do a fast shakedown in live stage conditions while Ott grows accustomed to the Puma Rally1 on dry Tarmac – then they can hit the ground running for their official test day.
“It’s to build mileage more than anything. As it’s a rally, there’s very little opportunity for us to make lots of car changes once it has started, so that element will still be focused around the test day in Croatia next week.
“This presents a great opportunity for our Belgian fans too, who don’t currently have a WRC round, to see a top driver in top flight machinery on their local roads.”
Tänak’s not the only World Rally Championship star in action on Rallye des Ardennes.
He’s joined on the entry list by WRC2 drivers Georg Linnamäe (Hyundai) and M-Sport’s Grégoire Munster. Jourdan Serderidis also takes part, but not in a Puma Rally1. He’ll instead drive an R5 Volkswagen.