Tänak: Rally Kenya suspension issues hopefully won't reappear in Greece

Ott Tänak in the Hyundai i20.
Ott Tänak in the Hyundai i20. Source: Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak says the team has put June's Rally Kenya behind them and is well prepared for the WRC EKO Acropolis Rally Greece 2021, a race returning to the calendar after an eight-year absence this weekend. The same suspension incident which cost Tänak's teammate Thierry Neuville victory in Kenya will hopefully not recur on similarly rough tracks in Greece, the Estonian added.

Tänak said Rally Safari Kenya: "Was a slightly unfortunate strange incident, but hopefully the team has found a solution. Every setback will help you move forward, and hopefully we will move on."

Two WRC events have taken place since then, with Tänak's home race in Estonian in July seeing him outside the top 10.

However, last month's Ypres rally in Belgium saw a return to form for Hyundai, with Neuville winning his home rally, while Tänak took the last three stages.

The entire Hyundai team will be using the same suspension set up in Greece as it had done in Kenya, which Tänak said he accepted as the way things are.

He said: "There's nothing I can do about it, so we just have to drive and keep our fingers crossed that we hold the suspension together."

Despite the frustrating time in Kenya, Tänak placed on the podium there.

This weekend's Acropolis Rally has been absent from the calendar for several years, while developments in WRC cars during that time mean teams and drivers are already on-site, doing more preliminary work than they do for most rallies, ahead of day one on Thursday.

Fifteen speed trials totaling 292km will be run, Thursday to Sunday. The day one opening stage takes place right in the middle of the Greek capital.

Tänak, unlike some younger drivers, has experienced the rally in the past, driving a Ford Fiesta S2000 under Markko Märtin's tutelage there 10 years ago in the second-tier SWRC class (now dubbed WRC-2) and finishing ninth a year later in his maiden full WRC season for M-Sport Ford.

The 2019 world champion says this experience does not give him any special advantages, however.

He said: "You're giving me the place and test names, but I'm not quite sure if I've driven them yet. They don't mean that much to me. It was 10 years ago when I drove there. Of course I have some idea, but there's a big rally ahead of us."

"It's a legendary rally which should be a calendar fixture in any case, and it's good to go back there. But as to what I know about the weather and conditions, well I'm sure it's warm there. It's always warm there."

Jari-Matti Latvala won for Volkswagen, no longer competing in the series, back in 2013. Latvala now drives for Toyota, Tänak's team when he won his WRC title in October 2019.

Despite the comparisons with Kenya, slightly faster and smoother tracks are expected compared with Acropolis rallies of yore.

Rally director Pavlos Athanasoulas told the DirtFish blog that: "The truth is, there are some sections which are a bit smoother.

"Don't forget, some of these roads haven't been rallied for eight or 10 years or something like that, so we had to put in a lot of work on those roads," he continued, adding that state support had been helpful.

"But, don't worry, this is still the 'Acropolis Rally of the Gods' – we will still have some very rough sections which will really slow the cars down. The roads might look smooth, but we've had the hottest August I can remember and this event will still be a tough challenge," continued.

First run 70 years ago, the rally is held on typically dusty, rough, rocky and fast mountain roads in mainland Greece, during what is still summertime there. While the opening stage is in Athens, the overall event centers on the central Greek city of Lamia.

The race replaces Rally Chile, which had originally been slated for this weekend.

The 2021 WRC calendar (completed events in italics, with race winner) looks like this:

  • January 21-24:  Rallye Automobile Monte Carlo (Sebastien Ogier, Toyota).
  • February 26-28: Arctic Rally Lapland (Ott Tänak, Hyundai).
  • April 22-25: Croatia Rally (Sebastien Ogier).
  • May 20-23: Rally de Portugal (Elfyn Evans, Toyota).
  • June 3-6: Rally Italia Sardegna (Sebastien Ogier).
  • June 24-27: Safari Rally Kenya (Sebastien Ogier).
  • July 15-18: Rally Estonia (Kalle Rovanperä, Toyota).
  • August 13-15: Ypres Rally Belgium (Thierry Neuville, Hyundai.)
  • September 9-12: EKO Acropolis Rally Greece
  • October 1-3: Rally Finland (rescheduled from late July/early August).
  • October 14-17: RACC Rally Catalunya de España
  • November 11-14: Rally Japan

Tänak currently lies fifth in the driver's table, behind Ogier, Evans, Neuville and Rovanperä.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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