‘Clean’ Safari important for Hyundai driver Tanak

Tuesday, March 5th, 2024 03:30 | By
Issa Amwari powers his Mitsubishi Evo 10 at the Kasarani Spectator Stage during last year’s WRC Safari Rally. PHOTO/Phillip Kamakya
Issa Amwari powers his Mitsubishi Evo 10 at the Kasarani Spectator Stage during last year’s WRC Safari Rally. PHOTO/Phillip Kamakya

Hyundai Motorsport driver Ott Tänak heads to this month’s Safari Rally Kenya (28 - 31 March) in search of a mistake-free event as he looks to close the gap to the top of the FIA World Rally Championship table.

The Estonian’s hopes of a big-points return to an i20 N Rally1 went awry when he slipped into a ditch early in Rallye Monte-Carlo. The first morning’s competition on round two in Sweden went the same way, when Tänak hit a snowbank and damaged the radiator. Forced out for the rest of Friday in Umeå, the 2019 world champion ended the event 41st.

He heads to Africa for round three 27 points adrift of his championship-leading team-mate and title rival Thierry Neuville.

Tänak said: “From my side, definitely too many mistakes to start the season but we know we can be a lot better. We’re looking forward to having a clean rally in Kenya.

“Obviously the mistake on Friday [in Sweden] was frustrating and afterwards even more so. We felt better in the car on Friday when the roads were a bit more slippery, but when the grip improved we just weren’t comfortable.”

After scoring a distant podium on the 2021 Safari Rally Kenya, Tänak and co-driver Martin Järveoja have struggled to make an impression on the Naivasha-based rally.

Meanwhile, despite presiding over Hyundai’s best start to an FIA World Rally Championship season yet, team principal Cyril Abiteboul has still marshalled caution over the pace of reigning champions Toyota.

Abiteboul’s Alzenau-based team won Rallye Monte-Carlo and Rally Sweden, but Hyundai and Toyota remain tied on points at the top of the manufacturers’ championship table.

Understandably delighted with Esapekka Lappi’s Umeå win earlier this month, Abiteboul said: “It’s been a long wait for EP and Janne [Ferm, co-driver], and they have done a mega job. We knew having a shared car would be an advantage for road position in a rally like this one, but equally the job they have done to navigate a number of challenges has been fantastic.”

Abiteboul paid tribute to his presidential predecessor, adding: “I would like to thank Sean Kim for his trust in EP last year when we faced moments of doubt.”

Talking more about Toyota, Abiteboul pointed to Sunday morning in Sweden, when the GR Yaris Rally1 was the car to have in the snow – Elfyn Evans dominated the final-day taking 11 of the 12 bonus points on offer.

He said: “We shouldn’t underestimate the reality check from Toyota this morning – their pace on that opening stage [on Sunday] was something else. It is a good result, but the positions in the championship standings show that every single point will count towards the final result.”

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