Top Estonian rally driver Ott Tänak, starts this weekend's Rally New Zealand with something of a blank slate, having last competed in the event a decade ago. In an interview with online gaming site Betsafe, Tänak who is currently second in the WRC table, said, he wants to make it as difficult as possible for leader Kalle Rovanperä to win the title.
Tänak believes, that Rally New Zealand will be a unique experience. "There roads here are unique. A lot of bends, which is mostly a positive thing. The stages are generally on very hard ground and there is a lot of loose gravel to start with, which, as it clears up, almost becomes asphalt," Tänak said.
Tänak's only previous appearance at Rally New Zealand Rally was ten years ago, during his first full season in the World Rally Championships. Back then, the Estonian finished just five of thirteen stages, retiring after crashing three stages before the end of the round. "We're starting with a blank slate, to be honest I don't remember much from that time," he said.
The Estonian has now scored four podium finishes in a row and is 53 points behind Finland's Kalle Rovanperä on the WRC leaderboard, with three stages to go. However, Tänak said, talk of him winning a second career World Championship title was optimistic. "We certainly want to make it as difficult as possible for Kalle to win it. In the first half of the year, with our speed and a few problems, we were way behind them, but now, with what's left of the season to go, it's probably no longer realistic."
The last round of the WRC, Rally Acropolis, in Greece, proved a huge success for Hyundai, with the manufacturer taking all three places on the podium. "While all the other teams were struggling to bring their cars home, we had both speed and endurance, which is a very good sign," said Tänak, who finished second in Greece behind Belgian teammate Thierry Neuville. Dani Sordo of Spain also finished third for Hyundai.
Despite having one-year remaining on his current contract with Hyundai, speculation has grown recently regarding a potential clause, which could see Tänak depart for another team next season. However, when asked, the Estonian driver kept his cards close to his chest. "Drivers' contracts are documents where agreements are made between two parties and are never subject to disclosure to third parties, unless for some specific legal reason," Tänak said.
During the last stage in Greece, the JWRC (Junior World Rally Championship) title was secured by Estonian driver Robert Virves. Tänak believes it would definitely a step in the right direction for Estonian motorsport to have another driver in the WRC.
"Winning the JWRC was the first real step in his career, and of course it's hard to say how much potential he has at the moment, but I think next year we will get an even clearer picture, as the cars get faster and the competition gets tougher," Tänak said.
The full interview with Tänak can be found on Betsafe's website (in Estonian) here.
Editor: Michael Cole