Reigning FIA World Rally Champion Ott Tänak believes his start with the Hyundai team has been better than expected, despite his monster crash on Rallye Monte Carlo and the now 24-point deficit to championship leader Sébastien Ogier.
Tänak, while driving for Toyota, ended Ogier’s run of six world titles last year; he then joined Hyundai alongside Thierry Neuville for 2020.
The change meant that Ogier could take Tänak’s place driving a pacesetting Yaris WRC and, after three rounds, the Frenchman now leads the standings with his new team-mate Elfyn Evans close behind in second place.
After Tänak’s big shunt on the Monte, he then took second places in Sweden and Mexico to currently lie fifth in the drivers’ table, four points behind team-mate Neuville, Hyundai’s winner on the Monte.
“In a way, the start of my time with Hyundai Motorsport was better than I expected,” Tänak said. “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 [Hyundai] 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 you back.”
Tänak has maintained contact with key Hyundai personnel during the coronavirus-induced break and believes he will be stronger when the WRC resumes, currently scheduled to be on Rally Finland on 6-9 August
“We have stayed in close contact, with Andrea Adamo, and the engineers,” he added. “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 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. I missed rallying 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.”