Tanak, from Estonia, started the event three points behind title rival Juho Hanninen. However, his challenge appears to be over after he damaged his Ford Fiesta S2000 striking a rock 16 kilometres into the opening 25.74-kilometre test.
After the opening stage, Hanninen’s advantage in the SWRC category stands at 22.0s after the Finn set a stunning time in his Red Bull Skoda Fabia. Hanninen’s effort was the sixth fastest time overall and puts him comfortably clear of Martin Prokop, who stands an outside chance of the title.
A spokesperson for M-Sport, the company responsible for building Tanak’s Fiesta, said: “Unfortunately Ott hit the same rock that Petter Solberg did. It broke the front crossmember of his car. He’s obviously more than a little disappointed because he had high hopes for this rally.”
Before the start, Tanak said: “We are just here to do our job and to do it as well as we can. We are just looking for the result here and to push as hard as we can. At the moment the title is very far away so I am not thinking about this.”
Tanak and co-driver Kuldar Sikk are expected to restart under SupeRally regulations on day two. They would need Hanninen and navigator Mikko Markkula to hit rouble in order to reignite their faltering title ambitions.
In more frustrating news for Estonian drivers, Tanak’s countryman Karl Kruuda also failed to complete the opening test after reports that he damaged his car’s suspension.