Ott Tänak finished second in the Hyundai i20 in the Croatia Rally over the weekend, just 4.3 seconds behind race winner Kalle Rovanperä (Finland).
Tänak said post-race that: "Compared with where we had been on Friday night, the situation at the finish line is not at all bad."
Tänak and Rovanperä, the latter in the Toyota Yaris, made different tire choices on the Sunday, with Tänak's two rain and two hard tires outperforming the Finn's two rain and two softs, closing the gap by 1.4 seconds.
"We didn't get a speed which would have allowed us to race with others, but we were very smart in our tire choices and this worked in our favor. We were always on the pace with the right tires, even compared with the others," Tänak went on.
The points test stage saw Rovanperä decisively ahead of the Estonian, however, by nearly 6 seconds, and by more than 20 seconds over the rest of the pack.
"In the end, Kalle was at a stage that we missed and that's something we need to focus on. Let's see what the next rallies bring. We're moving on to gravel now, which is a whole new topic again," he continued.
Tänak's teammate Thierry Neuville (Belgium) was third overall.
The Croatia Rally was only making its second appearance on the WRC calendar since the inaugural race last year, won by eventual world champion that season, Sebastien Ogier, by just 0.6 seconds over his teammate Elfyn Evans; 20 stages covered a total length of 291.84 km.
Pre-race Tänak said that: "Last year, for the first time event, racing in Croatia was more demanding than we had expected, because the asphalt there is very particular; it looks good, but the performance is very poor,"
"The road surface changes and the general characteristics of the roads also make driving quite difficult - there are a lot of hills and jumps which are not usually found on the asphalt too often. and we know what to expect from the competition," he went on.
The long break of almost two months since round two in Sweden meant that the three competing teams in WRC, along with the teams in WRC2 and the lower formulae, had more time to focus on development and testing.
Tänak was third in Thursday's initial test, behind Rovanperä and Neuville.
Friday morning brought mud and fog and problems for many competitors, including Rovanperä's teammate and compatriot Esapekka Lappi, who broke his suspension after hitting a rock; Tänak finished fourth for the day, as Craig Breen (M-Sport Ford) was also ahead of him.
On Saturday, Tänak found his way up to second place behind the eventual race-winner, thanks to Thierry Neuville's one-minute penalty, which brought him down to fourth.
After Sunday's final result, Rovanperä boosted his position at the top of the table with 76 points. Tänak is in joint fifth place on 27 points, with Sebastien Loeb (M-Sport Ford), with Neuville (47 points) and Breen (30 points) in between them and the leader.
Toyota heads up the manufacturers' table on 129 points, with M-Sport Ford second on 87. Hyundai lies in third place with 65 points.
The next race is in Portugal, May 19-22.
Editor: Andrew Whyte