Toyota team boss: I forgave Tänak long ago

Tommi Mäkinen at the independence day reception.
Tommi Mäkinen at the independence day reception. Source: ERR

Finnish rally legend and current Toyota boss Tommi Mäkinen says that he let bygones be bygones long ago, regarding Ott Tänak's decision to quit the WRC team – the team he clinched the world title with – at the end of last season.

Mäkinen was a guest at the president's traditional annual independence day evening reception, when ERR caught up with him, asking him about his relationship with the Estonian driver now he has moved to Hyundai.

"Having ever been a driver myself, I know full well that switching teams is sometimes important. I forgave him for joining Hyundai a long time ago. We never know, when he might want to come back to Toyota. This is rallying, and drivers are free to make their choices and go where they see their best options," Mäkinen, 55, who won the WRC title four times in the 1990s, said.

Rumors appeared in the motorsport media that Tänak, together with co-driver Martin Järveoja, might be making the move to Toyota rival Hyundai through the latter part of last season and while the Estonian was topping the drivers' table.

This became fact within days of his winning the title with Toyota in Catalunya in late October, meaning Tänak went to join last season's runner up, Belgian Thierry Neuville, in piloting the Hyundai i20 for 2020.

As regards this season, Mäkinen did not want to speculate who was going to be crowned champion. 

"It's going to be an interesting year. There are plenty of opportunities for winners. We have a lot of new drivers; [Toyota driver] Elfyn Evans, for example, is fast, but we are just at the beginning of the season. It will definitely be an interesting year," Mäkinen said.

Tänak crashed out of the season-opening Monte Carlo rally on day two, but finished second in Rally Sweden earlier this month. He currently lies in 6th place in the drivers' table. The next race is in Mexico in March.

Mäkinen also joked that he did not travel to Viljandi in a rally car, but rather a standard Toyota road car.

He also noted that Estonia's presidential reception is quite similar to those in Finland.

"People here wear their best clothes and enjoy the important day. For small countries in particular, Independence Day is very important," Mäkinen told ERR.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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