Rally

Tanak: Not giving up on WRC Croatia win despite Rovanpera “statement”

Tanak emerged in the battle for victory at the asphalt event after rally leader Rovanpera picked up a front left puncture, which cost the Finn almost a minute of his 1m23s advantage on Stage 11.

The Hyundai driver managed to apply pressure on Rovanpera throughout the afternoon, closing to within 13s of the Finn, before Rovanpera stamped his authority on the rally again to extend his lead to 19.9s by winning Saturday’s final stage.

While Tanak admits his chances of overhauling the leader are slim, he feels the fact Rovanpera pushed on Stage 16 shows that he is under pressure.

“This afternoon we were trying but there wasn’t the confidence and feeling to really go for the limit,” said Tanak.

“He [Kalle] made his statement and definitely there is plenty of speed. Let’s see, in a way it is good if he needs to do these statements, it means he needs to push.

“The conditions are getting cleaner and easier but we are still lacking quite a bit of speed.

“I’m not happy with second but at the moment with that speed that they [Rovanpera] have in the pocket and what we have, extra risk is not paying any dividends I guess, but let’s see.”

Ott Tänak, Martin Järveoja, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Ott Tänak, Martin Järveoja, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo by: Fabien Dufour / Hyundai Motorsport

Hyundai is fighting for a double podium with Thierry Neuville sitting 4.9s adrift of third-placed M-Sport driver Craig Breen despite an eventful rally so far.

The Belgian was only 12.5s behind leader Rovanpera after Stage 4 on Friday before an alternator issue resulted in a late check in to service, incurring a 40s penalty. This came after Neuville and co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe were forced to push their i20 N for 800m to reach the service park.

The pair were then handed a one-minute penalty and a €1,900 fine on Friday night after being clocked driving at 156kph on a road section limited to 80kph following Stage 4, dropping the duo from second to fourth. Hyundai has since confirmed that it has lodged an intention to appeal the penalty.

Hyundai is set to have only two cars on the stages on Sunday after deputy team director Julien Moncet confirmed Oliver Solberg won’t return following his high-speed crash on Stage 9.

Solberg’s i20 N caught fire following the impact with a tree which triggered the red light on the car’s hybrid kit.

“The car is still in quarantine after the fire activated the red light on the hybrid, which is normal, and in this situation there is a defined FIA safety process, so the car has to go in quarantine and be checked by FIA and [hybrid kit manufacturer] Compact Dynamics to declare it fully safe,” Moncet told Autosport.

“Nevertheless I don’t think we will see Oliver again tomorrow.”

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Solberg, who emerged from the incident unharmed, thought the car could return on Sunday if it had not caught fire.

“The rear end went a bit light as I went over the crest and I thought I had it and then it just went and unfortunately we went into the tree,” said Solberg. “We thought the car was okay but then it caught fire.

“We were out of the car and then all of sudden it [the fire] came so we were a bit shocked.

“It took a while [to put out] as we only had one fire extinguisher, so we couldn’t put it out alone. We had to wait for the fire truck and we just had to stand there and watch the car burning. If it didn’t catch fire we could have continued on Sunday.”

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