Blog: How Hyundai messed up Tanak's title fight?

After Acropolis Rally, many discussions have been done for how the team did not help Ott Tanak on his championship fight with Kalle Rovanpera, but how the bad decisions and the car issues affected his chance to become WRC Champion again?

Doing of a review of Tanak’s season so far, it is noticeable that he lost the opportunity to fight for the win in many occasions. The lack of Hyundai’s preparation for this new season was conspicuous from the first round of WRC calendar as all of its drivers faced hybrid issues including Tanak who faced engine issues as well and had to retire from Rallye Monte Carlo with a triple puncture. His hybrid problems continued in Sweden where he was forced to retire and to restart under he regulations of Rally2 resulting in finished 20th and scoring only 5 points as he was the fastest driver in Powerstage. In Croatia, he secured his first podium of the year (2nd place) and took the 4 bonus points from PS, but his rally was not easy as he faced a difficulty to change gears in one loop. In Portugal and Sardinia, the Estonian as hit by transmission issues, but he managed to win at the Mediterranean island whereas the sixth place in Portugal was very competent for him considering his problems. The most difficult event for him was Safari Rally where the gearstick and the propshaft were broken, thus he had to retire. His mechanics fixed his i20N for the next day and eventually he finished 11th in Kenya scoring zero points there. His home event was also difficult as he complained of not having a good set-up while he had to work on the brakes. In addition to that, he did not afraid of saying that many fundamental things did not go right during the car’s development despite the fact that the Koreans brought suspension upgrades and solved some reliability and performance issues since the end of Rally Croatia. However, he was at the lowest place of the podium in Estonia and scored zero Powerstage points whereas his championship rival Rovanpera won and took the 5 extra points from PS. In Finland, he won for a second time in 2022 and secured the first victory of Hyundai there, but the most remarkable thing is that he took too many risks as he was fighting with his car all the time. His third win of the season came at Ypres Rally, a rally after Rally Finland, and this event was a turnaround as he came closer to Rovanpera after the last one made a mistake and crashed on the second stage of the rally. Last but not least, it must be mentioned that he faced transmission issues with his i20N and had no 4-wheel drive during one loop of Ypres Rally. From all these results and problems, it is understandable that Hyundai was not ready for this season, as it was the latest team that started to prepare for the hybrid era of WRC, but somehow Tanak managed to take the maximum from his i20N whereas his teammates could not. But apart from i20N’s reliability and performance issues, how actually Hyundai blocked Tanak’s efforts to fight for the drivers’ title?

The answer is pretty much known as everyone remembers what happened in Greece one month ago and why the Koreans did not decide team orders. Despite the fact that Tanak faced hybrid and differential issues, he was capable of securing 5 bonus points from PS and finishing second overall there. Totally he scored 23 points at Acropolis Rally, but he could take seven points more if Hyundai would sacrifice Thierry Neuville who won this rally. The Alzenau team could still finish in 1-2-3 and achieve this historic result for them even though its drivers would have swapped their places. In case of Neuville dropping to second place and Tanak winning the Rally of Gods, this would mean that the last one would have scored 30 points and that Rovanpera should have scored more than 15 points than the Estonian in New Zealand to become WRC Champion this year instead of 8 points. As results standed for Rally NZ (win + 5 PS points for KR and 3rd place + 4 PS points for OT), the Hyundai driver could still have had the possibility to clinch his second title in WRC and his fight for the championship could have continued in Spain. But instead of this, Hyundai favored Neuville for winning just an event whereas it could give the opportunity to Tanak to win the drivers’ championship which would be the first one for the team. 

Ott Tanak’s frustration with Hyundai Motorsport and its actions is understandable considering the unreliable car, but mainly the decisions that were taken by the people in charge which eventually affected his championship. It would be no surprise if Tanak leaves and joins M-Sport Ford in 2023 as we should never forget that he is already a WRC Champion and three years have elapsed since his first title which means that he is being very hungry to top the world again.

Photo Credits: Hyundai

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