The Estonian duo of Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) dropped out of the opening round of the 2021 WRC season in Monte Carlo on day two, after a double puncture in Saturday's first two stages cost them time, ERR's sports portal reports. This followed a strong start on the opening day, Thursday. Veteran driver Sebastien Ogier won in the Toyota Yaris.
Tänak, the 2019 world champion, started Saturday in third place, 25.3 seconds behind leader, Welshman Elfyn Evans (Toyota).
However, during the opening stage of Saturday's events, the 18.31-km La Breole-Selonnet stretch, Tänak and Järveoja suffered a left-front tire rupture in their Hyundai i20.
Tänak, in typically laconic mode, said: "It happened relatively early in the test. I performed a pirouette right at the beginning, and there was a loose rock on the next corner. Naturally course I ran into it. Nice morning."
Hyundai drivers carry a spare with them, which was all well and good, but on the very next stage, in snowy conditions, misfortune in the form of another puncture struck, also on the left side, but this time it was the rear tire's turn.
The incident cost nine minutes on its own, behind stage winner and teammate Thierry Neuville of Belgium.
Tänank and Järveoja's withdrawal was announced around 12.30 p.m. Estonian time, ahead of the final Saturday stage.
The next race comes in late February, with the inaugural WRC Arctic Rally Finland taking place in Rovaniemi, in Finnish Lapland. Rally Finland itself follows in summer, as the calendar stands at the time of writing.
Toyota and Hyundai between them dominated the event, with the first Ford car, piloted by Briton Gus Greensmith, coming in eighth, one place behind the front-running second-tier WRC2 car, Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen's Škoda Fabia.
The event was eventually won by veteran, seven-time and reigning world champion Sebastien Ogier, (France) who maxxed-out on points (30) by clinching the final speed test sunday too. Teammate Elfyn Evans (Wales) was second with 21 points, while Ott Tänak's fellow Hyundai driver Thierry Neuville (Belgium) was third on 17 points. Finn Kalle Rovanperä, another Toyota driver, came fourth (16 points), another of Tänak's teammates, Spaniard Dani Sordo, finished fifth (11 points) while Takamoto Katsuta of Japan also in a Toyota Yaris, was sixth (eight points).
The final leaderboard Sunday looked like this:
The leaderboard at the time of Tänak's resignation from the race looked like this:
Remaining schedule for WRC Monte Carlo (Estonian time):
Sunday, January 24:
SS12 Puget-Theniers - La Penne 1 (12,93 km) 9.30 a.m.
SS13 Brianconnet - Entrevaux 1 (14,31 km) 11.08 a.m.
SS14 Puget-Theniers - La Penne 2 (12,93 km) 11.45 a.m.
SS15 Brianconnet - Entrevaux 2 (punktikatse, 14,31 km) 1.18 p.m.
Seven-time world champ Sebastien Ogier (Toyota) hit the road well on Friday, jumping from his fifth place after Thursday to first after five stages. A burst tire in the sixth stage pushed Ogier back to third but the Frenchman was able make up for lost time, closing the final stage of Friday with a dominant win, vaulting Tänak to take hold of second place again.
Welshman Elfyn Evans (Toyota) finished first after Friday's stages were finished due to a crash by Pierre-Louis Loubet (Hyundai). Evans is ahead of Ogier by 7.4 seconds and the top two are followed by Estonian Ott Tänak, who is 25.3 seconds back from first place overall.
After a fast start by the Estonian on Thursday, he has slowed down considerably while visibility becoming hindering the drivers on the Monte Carlo roads. "No issues. I had no visibility and the screen was completely misted, but otherwise okay," he said after the seventh stage on Friday.
He added: "I cannot say I am not trying, I am. There are moments in some places that we cannot expect. This proves that you never know what can happen. You can never be 100 percent certain. In places, the conditions are consistent, but then traction changes again and these places are hard to understand."
There was a turn on the fifth stage, where Tänak nearly went out. "It was not a small moment at all, I did not enjoy it! When entering the turn, I saw out of my side window, that is not how you drive on asphalt," Tänak said.
The opening round of the WRC season will continue after a service break shorter than usual, as coronavirus restrictions in France regulate that the drivers must be back in their hotel rooms by 6 p.m. local time. The rally will continue at 1.17 p.m. Estonian time.
Tänak started the season well, coming in fastest in the two stages to begin WRC Monte Carlo, beating Rovanperä by 3 and 0.3 seconds, respectively. Elfyn Evans (Toyota) is third, behind by 8.5 seconds, followed by Tänak's Hyundai team-mate Thierry Neuville (+16.0 seconds).
The opening day of the season did not end well for M-Sport's team, as Finnish driver Teemu Suninen finished his solid opening day with a huge crash and is out of the rally. Ogier was in a struggle with his car's brakes and begins the second day behind Tänak by 16.9 seconds.
Tänak also gave a few comments to WRC's live coverage: "It seemed like Monte Carlo was off to a good start - I have never started in daylight here before and conditions seemed stable."
"In the end, the first stage was not very bad, but the second, with its muddy sections, was very demanding and offered many surprises. In general, the car was much more stable than last year and the feedback from the machine was better. The new Pirelli tires have good traction in wet conditions, but if the tire ends up on mud or gravel, it is a different story. It is something we have to learn and experience. The most difficult part of the rally is still to come, we must continue," the 2019 world champion noted.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste