Four days after becoming world champion, Ott Tänak has quit Toyota Gazoo Racing.
Tänak secured a maiden drivers’ title in Spain on Sunday afternoon but will leave the Japanese manufacturer at the end of the season to join Hyundai Motorsport in a two-year deal, it was announced on Thursday evening.
The 32-year-old Estonian and co-driver Martin Järveoja had been expected to sign a new deal with Tommi Mäkinen’s squad until rumours surfaced earlier this month linking them with a switch to the Korean team.
Hyundai initially poured cold water on the stories, but confirmed today Tänak will link up with this year’s title rival Thierry Neuville, nine-time world champion Sébastien Loeb and Dani Sordo in what will undoubtedly be the strongest team in the 2020 WRC service park.
Tänak said the vision that team director Andrea Adamo set out matched his own ambitions.
“It’s a big honour for me to have the opportunity to join the team at this exciting stage of our respective careers. I have big respect for what Hyundai has accomplished. We’ve been fighting closely against each other for a number of seasons,” he said.
“They have always had a competitive team and car, so now it will be interesting to see things from the other side. The driver line-up is good and I am looking forward to seeing what we can achieve together over the coming years.”
Adamo said signing Tänak was a demonstration of Hyundai’s continued commitment and ambitions in the WRC.
“We are involved in a very close fight for the title this season, and bringing Ott and Martin into the team from 2020 will enable us to continue to be at the forefront for the coming years.
“He is an exceptional talent, as we have all seen, impressively quick and consistent on all terrains and he will be a real asset to Hyundai Motorsport,” he added.
Adamo confirmed Sordo, who signed a new contract earlier this month, will share the third i20 car with Loeb, who embarks on the second year of a two-year deal.
“It is a potent and inspiring crew line-up which will set a high benchmark to which the entire team will aspire,” he said.
Tänak’s move throws doubt on Andreas Mikkelsen’s Hyundai future, but Adamo said he remained in conversation with both the Norwegian and Craig Breen, who has driven two rounds with Hyundai this year, to see how they might be able to collaborate in 2020.