Mon 03 Jun 2024

Tänak: “I never expected this”

Ott Tänak has expressed his surprise at winning Rally Italia Sardegna after practically writing off his victory hopes before the Mediterranean event’s Wolf Power Stage.

Tänak felt pessimistic heading into Sunday’s four-stage final leg, having ended the previous day 17.1sec adrift of Sébastien Ogier. The Estonian even suggested that team orders had come into play to reduce his speed on the penultimate afternoon.

 

“The rally was finished yesterday,” he declared after Sunday’s opener. “We are going for the [Sunday] points.”

 

A conservative approach by Ogier saw the Frenchman’s lead whittled down to 6.2 seconds going into the 7.1km Sassari - Argentiera finale. It was a buffer that appeared safe until disaster struck, and a tyre on his Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 started losing air.

While Ogier did his best to limit the time loss, his efforts were in vain. Right at the death, Tänak overtook him, stealing the victory by 0.2sec in what was the joint-closest WRC finish in history.

 

“Honestly, I was not expecting [this win] at all,” Tänak admitted. “I was not even looking for it. It was all about the Super Sunday points [for us], and it was almost like it was a different event."

 

“I know how it feels to lose a rally like this,” the Hyundai star continued, reflecting back to the same event – and the very same stage – in 2019 when he was denied a guaranteed victory by power steering failure.

“I would say that Séb was robbed in a very cruel way. It’s difficult to say much, but from an emotional perspective, it’s definitely great to get a surprise like this, and also great for the statistics.”

 

The FIA World Rally Championship title race is really starting to heat up, with the leading three drivers blanketed by just 18 points after round six of 13.

 

Tänak’s triumph elevated him to second in the standings, equal on scores with Toyota rival Elfyn Evans as his Hyundai team-mate Thierry Neuville leads the way.

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