With five rounds of this year’s World Rally Championship to go, Ott Tänak has precisely half the number of points of his series leading rival Sébtasien Ogier. The Hyundai driver is nothing if not pragmatic and he knows his hopes of a second title in three years are very much on the slide.
Victory on last week’s Rally Estonia was key to him reigniting a potential 2021 title challenge, but hope of that had gone by Friday lunchtime.
“I’m not giving up on this championship,” Tänak told DirtFish.
“For the next events, I go and do my best. I know it doesn’t look good and, for me, it’s really difficult, but for the team we need to keep pushing.”
Asked how much a home defeat hurt, Tänak answered with typical candor.
“If you are doing this kind of championship, it doesn’t matter if the rally is here or there – the pressure is there if you need to protect a championship lead or something,” he said.
“OK, here I have some more knowledge of the roads, but it doesn’t give more pressure to compete at home.
“Winning Estonia is not important, winning the championship is important. Definitely the retirements in Sardinia and Portugal they hurt a lot there, this was – as well – my own mistakes and it’s nothing to hurt about.”
Following his Friday morning mistake, Tänak returned on the weekend and won 10 of 15 stages.
Some questioned the relevance of such pace from a driver fighting for nothing, but Tänak’s canny enough to know how important it was to send a warning shot across the bows of Toyota. Across the spread of the last homologation cycle, the Yaris WRC has been the fastest of the fast on the fast roads.
Tänak did something about that in Estonia last year. He did a bit more about it in Lapland earlier this year and last weekend he wanted to remind Jari-Matti Latvala and his team that the i20 Coupe WRC remains a force to be reckoned with ahead of an autumn trip to Finland.
Was it worth pushing so hard on a rally where he’d retired?
“What else could we do?” said Tänak. “It’s boring to go slow.
“And anyway, we can learn. Especially on Sunday morning we were looking for something that would work on the first loop in the loose and I would say, in the end, as were starting first and winning some stages, I would say we found something.
“For sure that was still good learning and it was important to keep focused on this topic, to keep learning.”
The Hyundai has generally come into its own on the second pass of stages, when there’s more grip around. So finding something from a weekend of superallying offers a genuine positive for Tänak and the team.