WRC news: Ott Tanak downplays Arctic Rally Finland chances

Ott Tanak says there is “a big job” to be completed before he is in a position to win the World Rally Championship’s Arctic Rally Finland, despite dominating this weekend’s warm-up event.

Tanak crushed the competition in the Otepaa Winter Rally, going fastest on every stage to win by 33.4 seconds from Hyundai teammate Thierry Neuville.

The result was Tanak’s fifth win on home soil with the Korean marque since last summer and arguably the most important as the 2019 World Champion tries to bounce back from his Rally Monte Carlo disappointment.

For the second year running, he retired from the traditional season-opener, and to compound matters received a suspended one-round ban for driving back to service on three wheels.

“Overall, it was a very demanding rally for us,” said Tanak. “All day we had some very snowy conditions and I would say compared to the Lapland test [earlier this month] the conditions were very similar.

“There were some narrow and fast roads and also some bumpy and twisty sections, so for sure we got some very good information.”

Despite preparations for Arctic Rally Finland going as well as he could have hoped, Tanak believes there is still considerable work to do if he hopes to narrow the gap to Toyota.

“We now have these final two weeks to get prepared for the next round and make sure everything is good for the rally because we know we will have some very hard competition from Toyota in Lapland,” he said.

“It will be more than demanding. A big job is still waiting ahead before we arrive at Lapland.”

Despite coming home second to Tanak, Neuville appeared to leave Estonia for home much the happier of the two Hyundai drivers.

“We came here to test a little bit more, to try and find settings,” explained the Belgian. “Throughout all the day we went progressively in the right direction, so there is a better feeling in the car. But it was a tough event – the conditions were changing a lot.

“It was really tricky in parts but yeah, at the end the job is done and I think that it was good to prepare in this way for the next WRC event.

“There was a test plan before the event and everybody respected it. Everybody was able to try all the [new] parts which more or less had limited availability [previously], but now for the rally everybody knows what he [the driver] likes and what is going to be on the car.”

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