Interview with Ott Tänak

Ott Tanak, the one-time WRC Champion, accepted the invitation of WRC Fanatix and revealed some special things to Sofia Siriatou about 2012 and his return to Hyundai squad for 2024.

Ott Tanak comes from Estonia and is 36 years old. He became a champion twice on his country while he won another five titles in different categories on Estonian rallying. The most important achievement of his career is when he stopped the Seb’s dominance in World Rally Championship by winning the driver crown with Toyota in 2019. He has driven for M-Sport Ford, Hyundai and Toyota at the top level of WRC, but he did not manage to win another title since he topped the world five years ago. 

SS: Hello Ott! First of all, thank you for accepting my invitation! To begin with, what is your goals for 2024?

OT: To achieve the championship!

SS: You rejoined Hyundai Motorsport for this year and you have already competed with the 2024-spec i20N. Would you share with us some similarities and some differences between the car you drove in 2022 and the car you are driving right now?

OT: Well, basically, from 2022 obviously the car is roughly the same. There have been no jokers used. For me, probably the biggest difference is the tire of which I had never good driving in 2022. Other things are more fine-tuned and definitely the car altogether is more fine-tuned and more in the box. And, yeah, everywhere a bit improved, but in the big picture still quite the same that I was driving in 2022. 

SS: How did Cyril Abiteboul persuade you to come back to Hyundai?

OT: Well, basically Cyril contacted me and we had the first discussion generally talking. At the end of 2022, the things were not going easy at the company. We had a kind of discussion and agreement that if the company gets sorted and prepare a stronger structure, then I would be open to return and to be back. Clearly, there was a big action in the quarter sides in 2023 to bring team principal and technical director and to build up a structure. I mean the good people, the technical people always were there, so it was just needed more system and now is there. So, no reason not to come back.

SS: Unfortunately, you were not able to fight for the 2023 title and I can understand your decision to leave M-Sport Ford and to go to one bigger team. What do you believe it did not go well and you lost the chance to fight for more victories and for the championship? 

OT: Obviously, the first half of the beginning of the season we were still on the fight for the championship, but during the summer I was just having too many retirements and too many big issues which put us a little further down. After these, it was just difficult to recover. 

SS: You had said that you were very close to end your professional career in 2012. Why were you thinking of taking such a risky decision for your career?

OT: Obviously, that time it was not my decision. I just had bad season or past bad seasons in 2012. After this, I just had no seat, so obviously the sport is very expensive and I had no such a background to support me in this way to do the sport at that level. I would say later just lucky enough to have the opportunity to come back again, but let’s say in that moment I was going to end my career and it was not going to be my decision!

PS: I would like to thank Ott Tanak for his time and of course Nicoletta Russo for her collaboration!!

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