Ott Tänak admitted his retirement from Dayinsure Wales Rally GB was one of the toughest moments of his career and an experience he wants none of his rivals to suffer.
The Toyota Gazoo Racing driver had built a 41.9sec lead before his Yaris succumbed to a broken radiator on Saturday afternoon’s Sweet Lamb Hafren test.
The Estonian’s withdrawal ended his hopes of winning four consecutive rallies and broke a run of form that had netted 87 points from a possible 90 at the last three events and thrust him into title contention.
Tänak acknowledged his sudden reversal of fortune had been tough to take. “It was really hard, I want none of my opponents to feel anything like I did. It was definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever felt. It was emotional,” he said.
Four points on Sunday’s Live TV Power Stage ensured he didn’t leave the 11th round of the series empty-handed, but Sébastien Ogier’s win dropped Tänak from second to third in the standings.
The 30-year-old is now 21 points behind series leader Thierry Neuville with two events left.
“On Sunday we just did our job, which was to get some points from the Power Stage and then get to the finish,” he explained. “We are still in the championship fight, but the situation is tougher for us now. It will not be easy, but we will keep trying until the end.”
Toyota team principal Tommi Mäkinen is confident Tänak can secure his first drivers’ title this season, with 60 points still up for grabs in Spain and Australia.
“It makes his drivers’ title bid more difficult, but there are still a lot of points available,” Mäkinen acknowledged. “He is clearly the strongest driver right now, so it could all still turn around.”