Rally

Estonia restart perfect chance for Tanak to reignite WRC title defence

Ott Tanak says the resumption of the World Rally Championship in his Estonian homeland in September is the perfect opportunity to reignite his drivers’ title defence with new employer Hyundai.

Having run as a successful promotional event last year, the East European country made the step up to the top flight earlier this month, striking a deal to run the first WRC event since Rally Mexico in March following the coronavirus pandemic.

The event organisers’ agreement with WRC bosses and the FIA is part of a deal that is believed to be in the region of two million Euros for the high-speed gravel counter.

Following the opening three rounds, reigning champion Tanak is fifth in the standings, 24 points behind current leader and six-time champion Sebastien Ogier.

Tanak’s title defence began with a horror crash at Rally Monte Carlo but he regrouped to finish runner-up in Sweden and Mexico.

Tanak believes he can put local knowledge to good use in Estonia to continue his podium streak.

“To restart the season in Estonia is definitely great,” said Tanak, who insists there will be no added pressure to perform at home.

“The Finns have had their chance to drive on their home roads.

“It’s the same for Seb [Ogier] in Gap, so [like me] I am sure Estonia is grateful for the opportunity.

“It’s great the Promoter found a way to restart the season.

“I won Rally Estonia in 2019 – I am sure I have some good experience on those roads.

“The biggest advantage is the [lack of] travel time to the event – I am happy for that.

“I want to do my best and if there is any advantage being on home soil then, of course, I’ll use it.”

Tanak feels that, despite his mixed start to the year, he can still retain his crown.

“The Monte accident and zero points at the start of the season was never the plan, but two second place finishes [since then] means it is not a bad start,” he said.

“I am confident that everything is still possible.”

After testing in Finland last month with the Hyundai squad, Tanak returned to competitive action at last weekend’s Viru Rally, where he dominated throughout to win by approaching two minutes.

“It was a great feeling to be out competing again and it was nice to take our first rally win with Hyundai,” he said.

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