Ott Tänak at WRC Rally Kenya. Source: Hyundai Motorsport
Ott Tänak's Hyundai WRC team has been reflecting on another disappointing weekend, after the WRC Safari Rally Kenya – though Tänak himself provided the consolation, making his second podium appearance of the season, and the first since February.
Tänak said post-race that: "On the one hand, it's good to be back on the podium and take the maximum points from the points test, but it's been another difficult weekend for the team."
The Estonian, 33, from Saaremaa, who was WRC champion for Toyota in 2019, said that the Kenya rally brought with it specific challenges which meant he could not go all out at all times, lest it backfired.
"I put on 50-60 percent of myself so as not to make mistakes and so as to drive as smoothly as possible. Friday was demanding – as the safari rally should be – and it was the same again this morning," he continued, via a Hyundai press release.
Those demands included the technical – at one point Tänak had to spend a minute-and-a-half manually cleaning the windshield after the wiper on his side of the car packed up – and the environmental, as local wildlife including Zebra, baboons, gazelles, giraffes and others came near or actually on to the track, causing many of the competing drivers, including Tänak, to have to hit the brakes.
More than that, Hyundai had been in the lead going into Sunday, via Belgian Thierry Neuville, but rear suspension failure ended his race prematurely, though it did promote Tänak into a podium position. Spanish driver Dani Sordo also had problems in his Hyundai i20 on the opening day of the event.
"It's a pity that things didn't work out for Thierry this weekend. We're heading back to Estonia now, for my home rally, which should be nice," Tänak added.
The second-ever full WRC Rally Estonia runs July 15-18.
The third-place was his second podium finish this season, after winning the Arctic Rally in Finnish Lapland back in late February.
Tänak, who lies fourth in the driver's table, and co-driver Martin Järveoja, failed to make the top three after that, in Croatia, Portugal and Sardinia.
The race was won by veteran, six-time world champion and current table leader Sebastien Ogier (France, Toyota), with his teammate Takamoto Katsuta of Japan putting in a career-best second.
Hyundai boss Adriano Adamo was in characteristically uncompromising mode after the weekend.
He said: "We can't be satisfied. This is the third rally in a row where we have had problems. So we can't put it down to bad luck. No excuses, this just shouldn't happen."
"We need to understand what's been going on ... We've improved the speed [on last year], but we lack reliability and we need to understand why. It's just not acceptable," the Italian went on.
Ott Tänak was at least impressed with the race itself, making a return to the WRC calendar after a near 20-year absence.
Tänak said: "This race has impressed and has brought something different, offering unique pleasure - such as Friday's 'fesh-fesh', which is challenging, but is like an adventure."
Fesh-fesh is a particular type of fine sand or dust which at a glance looks like it provides a hard surface, but upon driving on it reveals qualities more similar to soft mud. - Andrew Whyte, ERR News