Newly-crowned world champion Ott Tänak admits he was at odds with mentor and fellow Estonian Markko Märtin about the way to approach Sunday’s decisive finale of RallyRACC Catalunya - Rally de España.
Former Subaru, Ford and Peugeot works driver Märtin, who scored five rally wins at WRC level, is Tänak’s manager and business partner and has guided him through a turbulent career in which he was twice dropped by the M-Sport squad.
Märtin was alongside Tänak in Spain. The pair deliberated over whether to attack in Sunday’s final leg to gain enough points for the title, or settle for third place and head to next month’s final round in Australia with one hand on the trophy.
It came down to the final bonus points-paying La Mussara Wolf Power Stage. Tänak charged to fastest time in his Toyota Yaris, demoted Hyundai’s Dani Sordo from second position and sealed a maiden title to end Thierry Neuville’s hopes.
“We spoke last night and his advice was to take all the points and not to push. He obviously was not happy with the Power Stage!” joked Tänak, who became Estonia’s first WRC drivers’ champion.
“Before the Power Stage, I had two options. Basically, to drive and hope Thierry wouldn’t take too many points, or hope I may have enough. I knew this wasn’t going to happen.
“I said Thierry will push and take maximum points, so the choice for me was to push myself and make the difference.
“At the beginning of the stage, in the first few kilometres, I wasn’t completely relaxed. I wanted to relax as quickly as I could. I managed to push a little bit more. I knew it was going to be difficult but in the end, it was a job well done.”
The bonus points were not needed as second place proved sufficient to take the crown and bring a massive release of pressure which had been building on the 32-year-old’s shoulders throughout rally week.
“I believe not just pressure, but huge pressure. Since Thursday, every second person is asking about the pressure and how your head is and how the championship is. It wasn’t easy to manage because of this,” Tänak added.
“I would say that in my life, I have had many difficult problems, so it helps to cope with these kind of situations. Still, this pressure was something new. At the beginning, I didn’t know how I would perform and how I would manage the pressure like this. Now the relief is great.”
Tomorrow: How Tänak won the title