Hyundai Motorsport GmbH continues with their series Home Shakedown where they are interviewing drivers from the team and this time it is their newcomer Ott Tänak’s turn.
Tänak made an unexpected move from Toyota Gazoo Racing to Hyundai Motorsport for this season after becoming the first Estonian to clinch a world title in the FIA World Rally Championship last year.
His first start with the team at Rallye Monte-Carlo earlier this year didn’t go well as he had hoped, and was involved in an high speed crash when his Hyundai i20 WRC car’s rear lifted up in a bump over a small crest and flew off the road. He rolled several times before falling off a cliff down to a road nearby, luckily both Tänak and his co-driver Martin Järveoja escaped without any harm but the car was totalled.
Following up from the opening-round’s retirement, he was back at it straight away and took two consecutive podiums in Sweden and Mexico before COVID-19 came and stopped the competition.
During the lockdown, Tänak has spent his time with his family at his home in Estonia, he has also bought a simulator rig so he can practice, but he says it is not the same feeling as to drive in-real. He has also helped a lot with doing forestry work as his family owns some lands with forest.
“Everything has been going fine, thanks. We have been keeping very busy during this period, and haven’t had any reason to complain. The weather has been nice and we’ve had plenty of things to keep us all occupied. We have a large area in the forest that has required some work, as well as doing stuff around the garden.” Tänak said to his interview with Hyundai.
“I have really been missing it a lot. To be honest, I missed it so much I invested in a simulator. I’ve been on it a few times but it’s not the same as the real thing, and not like what we are usually able to do through the forests. It’s also different when you’re not working together with the team on a daily basis. Nothing matches the thrill of putting on your helmet and the excitement of the rallies.”
“The break is actually not so bad. I have been able to see what’s happening in everyday life, in private with my family. Rallying is busy, so it doesn’t leave a lot of spare time. It’s the travelling that we don’t miss so much. We need to find a solution where we can compete but without the travel. So, you can just click your fingers and be somewhere else, Portugal, Spain, wherever the rally is!”
Tänak explained the first rally with his new team was better than he expected despite having to retire due to his crash. He also explained that he has been surprised by how he received the positive feedback by joining the team.
“In a way, the start of my time with Hyundai Motorsport was better than I expected. We all know that Thierry has been in the team for a long time. He’s been the star driver. Coming into an environment like that you don’t expect the same kind of attention, but this team has matured and started to be very strong in recent years. I’ve been very positively surprised with the approach, and I believe this will show in our results when we return from the break. If you have a good relationship with the team, it will always pay back.” Tänak continues.
“We have stayed in close contact, with Andrea, with the engineers. We’ve had the chance to look back at the opening rallies, to gather a bit more experience and learning for the future. I’ve been in touch with Martin (Järveoja, co-driver) sometimes, too. He’s a guy I’ve seen every day for three years in a row. He’s also enjoying time at home but missing the rallies as much as I do. We are all ready to go again.”
Tänak spoke about the rallies he is missing, he hoped to do Rally New Zealand which was postponed due to the ongoing pandemic, he also misses Rally Poland that is no longer on the calendar but hopes to do Rally Finland which is still one of the rallies left on the calendar this season.
“One of my favourite rallies is New Zealand, which I was hoping to take part in this year. We’re not sure if that’s happening or not. The other one I really like is Poland, which of course is no longer on the calendar. Finland is the one still on the schedule that I really enjoy; it’s not hard on the car, or the tyres, it’s just hard on the drivers. It’s like driving art; you land, you’re back in the air, you need to be in the right position at the right speed.”
The return of the Safari Rally to the calendar this year will not be happening as the event is postponed to next year. WRC Promoter, the teams and the drivers are hoping to restart the season in Finland in early-August.
The Finnish Government will decide if they can host the event around mid-June, the Finnish national motorsport events can started to be hosted from June so there are high hopes for Rally Finland to go as planned.
“We’ve all had to prioritise safety by staying home, but at the same time we’ve kept pushing ourselves. We’ve learned a lot and when we start back with competition again, we will be a lot fitter, and ready to attack.” Tänak added.