Everybody is talking about the rock ripping off Tanak’s right rear tyre - and we don’t mean Dwayne Johnson. This is why the World Rally is so exciting - because the entire leaderboard can be turned on its head by a non-sentient lump of our geological past.
Last time we updated our beloved TrackDays audience about WRC 2021 we were on the verge of the Croatia round and had just left icey Finland. What an incredible turnaround since that time - when Ogier was buried in a snowdrift a few months ago and talking about wanting to put the Lapland outing behind him - to now lead WRC 2021 with 106 points! Snow buried Ogier in Finland; water nearly drowned the Yaris in Italy; gravity wrecked Rovanpera in Croatia; and now it seems like the elements have decided to take a swing at rally hero Ott Tanak.
Rovanpera was leading at the end of the WRC second stage - and being the youngest ever driver to do so - it was looking promising. That is until an absolutely terrifying accident in Croatia saw the Toyota slip off the tarmac and barrel down the surrounding steep countryside. Rovanpera and co-driver were fortunately unharmed - although the adrenaline of Rallying is one of the biggest appeals - we have to remember that there have been several WRC fatalities over the years and that the sport is extremely high risk. The skill of Rovanpera is unquestionable and we still have seven rounds to go.
Let us take this opportunity to consider that some of the rounds might not take place or be switched out for another location like the Arctic Round - specifically thinking about Japan and the rising covid rates - when the championship was going to be decided in Nagoya. It has been 11 years since Japan featured in the WRC fixtures and we are sending our best wishes to Rally Japan at this trying time.
Sordo stalled in the final speed test of Rally Portugal - while Neuville was too hot into a right turn and turned the Hyundai over. The team flipped it back onto all fours and managed to limp to the finish which must have been extremely frustrating. Tanak was blitzing through Portugal only to damage his rear suspension - attempting to keep going but the wheel was dragging behind the i20. Similarly in Italy bringing us up to date with the rock incident tearing the same wheel off!
Tanak now officially retires from two championship leads and is a devastating 57 points behind Ogier - giving us the heartbreaking quote only a few days ago “there is nothing much to look at anymore”. He follows by stating practically that the team will give it their maximum as always - and they will see if it was enough by the end of the year.
As a truly inspiring sportsman Tanak refuses to apportion blame - and instead speaks of the team's unity and i20’s pace. Referencing how amazing the performance was for the entire team allowing him and Sordo to dominate all eight of the opening day speed tests.
“It’s good to feel we have the speed and we can control in places,” said Tänak. “The team has helped me a lot and they are really behind to help me to get used to the car and now this year we have done some steps as well. I feel the car is fast, just needs a little more reliability.”
We eagerly await WRC Safari Rally Kenya.