WRC - O. Tänak: "We had quite many surprises we didn’t expect." | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile

WRC - O. Tänak: "We had quite many surprises we didn’t expect."

06.09.20

Transcript of the post-event press conference organised by the FIA for the 2020 Rally Estonia.

2020 WRC  - Rally Estonia - O. Tänak/M. Järveoja (photo DPPI)

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:

Ott Tänak (EST), Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team
Martin Järveoja (EST), Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team
Craig Breen (IRL), Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team
Sébastien Ogier (FRA), Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team
Andrea Adamo (ITA), Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team

Q: Ott, it is your first win of the season. It is a win at home for you and it is your first with Hyundai. I can’t imagine the range of emotions that you must be feeling right now. How are you feeling?
OT: I must say I feel happy to be here. It was actually very demanding. Normally Estonian roads are quite fun to drive but here for the second time, it started to be very demanding. The only thing I can say  is that it took a lot of focus to really manage everything on that speed? And still, we had quite many surprises we didn’t expect, so it was tough. The pressure was definitely there. We knew that we have to take the points from this event and we have to win. Obviously we were in Estonia and I should have some kind of an advantage here. Another thing is that we had never won with the Hyundai before. This was also the place where it should have happened. Then we played out nicely, but still, to make it through without issues but at the same time try to be the fastest, it was quite a big job to put this together.

Q: It looked like a big challenge for everyone out there this weekend. It was highly entertaining. How did it feel this time for you, though, because you have won here before, but as you mentioned, the pressure was different then. It wasn’t a WRC event, the points weren’t involved, how much different was the feeling from competing last year?
OT: The level was, first of all, completely different. Everybody was pushing for their maximum performance. That was the first thing. Otherwise, I would say, there was nothing from the previous years. Big parts of the stages were new, the conditions were something we’ve never faced before. So it was a different event.

Q: You had a little bif of a moment on the penultimate stage today. We would say it was a moment, maybe you wouldn’t call it a moment, I don’t know. I would, looking at it. How did you see it previously that Lappi had made a mistake there?
OT: Actually, I knew, yes, and then I went slower in that place and still the road put me a bit to the edge of the road. Let’s say during these two days, I definitely had more impressive surprises or moments than this one. But obviously, this one was in TV, so let’s call it a moment.

Q: You paid tribute to the team at the end of the event. You said you’ve spent a lot of time on your sofa but they have been doing a lot of work behind the scenes. You’ve done the hard work yourself, obviously, this weekend. What do you want to say about the team at this point?
OT: First of all, I must say, the time we had after Mexico, we definitely tried to use every day of it, every minute of it to make the best out of it so that when we come back, we are better than we were before. This high profile event proved that if we were missing something before, here definitely we were up there and performing. I was really happy this weekend, the car was doing what I wanted and the step forward has been impressive in the meantime. Now again we go to different rallies. Rally Estonia was very specific and we start a new challenge.

Q: Not many rallies are remaining this year due to very special circumstances in 2020. It’s going to be a heck of a fight for the title this year.
OT: It’s going to be a sprint to the finish. Hopefully everything will go according to the plan. The life out there is still pretty challenging, so we need to see what is going to happen. Anyway, when it’s our moment to do the job, of course, we try to do our best.

Q: Martin, it is a win at home which must feel pretty special. A huge weekend on the return of the FIA WRC. What are your feelings right now?
MJ: A different kind of adrenaline than in the last six months. It was a good weekend. Like Ott said, it was a quite difficult one. It was good to compete here at home, because we saw lots of spectators. I didn’t see them on the stages but there was lots on the road sections. There was a lot of support.

Q: In terms of doing your job as a co-driver, in, what is now a slightly different working environment, how was that this weekend?
MJ: This time-card thing I think, actually can be the future, even without this COVID-19 situation. But overall, I think there was no big difference.

Q: We’ve seen Rally Estonia in the past years and lots of WRC drivers have come to this event over the years. But to see it as a WRC event and all of your rivals, friends coming here to compete in your home nation, hat did that feel like? Do you feel the rally really delivered this weekend?
MJ: When we had a regroup in Elva, my hometown, it was a really special moment. I was born in this city and now we were standing in the parking there with the WRC car in a WRC event. It was really, really something special, I must say.

Q: Craig, second position, with Hyundai. It's your first podium with the team and an incredible performance this weekend. I did say in the pre-event press conference you would be one to watch with your experience here in Estonia, but did you imagine the result would be this good?
CB: No, I didn't. I didn't imagine it would be so good, to be honest. But honestly, since I did the first runs in the calendar in the pre-event tests, it sort of blew me away a little bit. And I had some inkling inside that, you know, if things were in a good way and I could get into a rhythm quickly, after being in the R5 car for such a long time; if I could switch myself onto the speed, we could be here thereabout. And the whole Saturday morning, it all just seemed to kind of come together and yes, as the weekend progressed, we just got steadily more confident and more comfortable with everything. And to finish on the podium is something fantastic - and such a strong podium! There are seven world championships among all of us here, I own none of them but, it's an amazing feeling.

Q: (laughing) I'm sure it is. How fast-paced was it and how much of a challenge was it? I mean, we watched and we're in awe of the speed you guys can get up to on these stages… But it looked like such of a challenge with the mix of the fast stuff, the narrow stuff, the more technical – it seemed to keep changing all the time, keeping you on your toes?
CB: Yes, I have to say that the first passes were, generally speaking, really enjoyable and you could really push flat out. And yesterday, in particular in the morning, it was really nice. And I have to say, yes it was a little bit more tricky on the second pass. Like Ott said: in some places, there were some quite big surprises and the problem here with - you know, the speeds are so high in some places – you’re arriving on the corner at 180-190 kilometers per an hour. If there's something there, a rock or a hole or something that has appeared in between the two runs, you know, it can really catch you by surprise. That element is a little bit more tricky and it makes it maybe a little bit less enjoyable because you're always having to anticipate things that are already are out of your control. But still incredibly enjoyable. It's a privilege just to be able to drive these machines, they're something quite special.

Q: The confidence, obviously, was building stage by stage, but you came into the final day with a multiple World Champion just behind you. Were you feeling the pressure from Mr. Ogier?
CB: He wasn't giving me pressure at all, but it was... this one that was giving me pressure (pointing to Andrea Adamo). That was giving me more pressure. I woke up a little bit early this morning, the alarm didn't wake me up, I was awake before it, and I might have, you know, let on that the pressure wasn't getting to me. But, you know, at the end of the day, we absolutely had to deliver a result on this day and I knew it was very important both for myself and Paul going forward that we sign and seal. We couldn't just fall at the last hurdle, so there have been tough moments during the day but luckily enough, we managed to keep the rhythm high enough. And then, on the last stage, for sure, I didn't take any risks. I would have perhaps liked to manage it a little bit better, not give him so many heart attacks, but it all worked out in the end.

Q: Well, maybe you can turn the tables and put some pressure on him now: when are we going to see him next? (To Andrea Adamo)
AA: It's not that kind of things that are putting pressure on me.

Q: I'm not sure exactly.. When would you like to be back, Craig, riding again in just a week and a half?
CB: Tomorrow. Straight away. Obviously me and Paul would love to be back in the car whenever we can, but we just have to wait and see. I think we've done the best that we can do this weekend. I think anything more than this result was out of our hands or unrealistic. I'm just proud and happy... and, yes, a huge thanks to the team that has worked incredibly hard during months that have been difficult for all sorts of other reasons. They worked their butts off and it absolutely paid off!

Q: Let’s turn now to Sébastien Ogier. You’re continuing to lead the championship after this event. It’s a good bowl of points for you. How are you feeling at the end of Rally Estonia, Seb?
SO: Generally I’m happy but there is a bit of mixed feelings. Being on the podium is always a good thing for the championship. But even if I start to have a little bit of experience in rallies around the world, it was still my first time in Estonia and fighting at this level is always challenging, against guys who have done the rally before. I knew fighting for victory would be a hard job this weekend and very difficult to reach against Ott. The target was to fight for the podium and we are there on the podium. It’s still very good points for the championship. These mixed feelings still come from the fact that, probably the victory would have been difficult to reach but to put more pressure on Ott was definitely possible. And second place was also definitely in our reach. Unfortunately we didn’t manage to make all the things come together in this weekend. We had some little issues yesterday afternoon with tyres. We didn’t play it right with the setup there and there. Yes, I think it’s still good when you come out from not such a good weekend with eventually 17 points, so I’m looking forward already to the next one.

Q: Tommi Mäkinen has said that, when you tested for this event, maybe you tested on too faster roads instead of mixing it up with maybe some slower or technical sections. He said maybe that was the downfall on this weekend. Would you agree?
SO: Well, test it like it is. You never choose the conditions you get and of course, it’s always going to be different during the rally. We were not clever enough this weekend to really see that the rally conditions here were not the same as in the test. And we should have made some earlier changes in the setup. We realized it too late. That’s the way it is. It still happens after many, many years in the sport. It’s not a big drama at the end. We are still there. We massively increased our lead in the championship by one point (he laughs). Let’s see what’s coming in the next one. At least we’ve worked a lot also recently to improve the car and I’m very confident. We’ve made some good steps on the rough conditions, so I look forward to seeing over time if it’s enough or not. You can never say but it’s going forward. Everything is pushing hard, they’ve been improving a lot in those conditions. But let’s see in two weeks if we have been able to do the same.

Q: That one point could be very important at the end of the season, Seb!
SO: Every point is important. Obviously I would have loved more. The Power Stage was the roughest stage of the weekend. I’ve done all my career with these conditions and not so often I’m able to really go for it when It’s like this. There’s always a bit of a change that you need to survive this roughness. It’s good to see that the car was able to be very fast in this conditions. Kalle did an amazing time. There is some positive out of this weekend.

Q: Now turning to Andrea Adamo: congratulations on the 1-2 this weekend. Before we talk about the positive performances, can we just talk about Thierry Neuville on the Power Stage. We were expecting to see a charge after he’s done such a good job of conserving everything for the whole day. But it didn’t come… What exactly was wrong?
AA: What exactly, we still don’t know. Let me say someone will have to explain at home.

Q: Do we have any idea at all?
AA: Yes I have.

Q: Do you want to share that with us?
AA: Not this time.

Q: OK, let’s talk about the positives as it’s a great result for Ott, Martin, Craig and Paul, of course. What do you think about their performances on this weekend?
AA: Whatever I say would be a bit… what can I say? They for sure did well. I think that also Thierry was doing very well and I have to say, that in my opinion it showed what good crews we have. Back from the first day when I started to work in the position I have now, every journalist – I don’t know if it was a sort of lobby or agreement – was asking me why Hyundai is not fast in Finland. Some of them were also questioning the drivers and it was something that was upsetting me quite a lot because I knew that they are working hard, they are fighting hard and I knew that their limit was the car. I think that yesterday midday, it was a good thing to show to everyone who ever doubted that the drivers, the crews are very competitive, Thierry as well because he was fast and it was just a small mistake. When they are running with this speed, maybe just a few centimeters can change your life. It’s called motor sport on the other hand. Of course I’m happy by the performance of the crews and this has showed what amazing job my team has done in these months. We were together in Mexico, we know how fast the decision was done to come back because it was unclear what was the situation in Europe.
We came back in a rush and all of the sudden I had to understand how to manage 254 people coming from different countries with families, not everyone being in Germany. People were asking me what to do so I had to decide basically on the spot to tell them to go home, to manage their things, how to understand to take care of everyone, to tell them what to do. We had to guarantee the job to everyone. Let me say… March has been quite a tricky month. I just tried to be nice and calm and tried to manage the situation.
I took responsibility as in my role I have to have. Also deciding then after to start work in so-called home-office. Of course all mechanics doing home-office is a bit tricky to explain. But we kept everyone paid. I have to say, Hyundai, thank you! I’m proud to work for Hyundai because everyone has been paid 100%, or being given support. With HR, that is how we managed all the ways to do it. They started to work in different ways. Of course, it’s a new way to work. They have done an amazing job, honestly. Then we decided to go ahead. We took responsibility; that is my role to take. Of course, one question came from Korea, if it is really needed and necessary to spend money to go ahead, but I always say: yes, no problem at all. Be sure that everything is going on. The number of sleepless nights are known only by my pillow. But that’s part of the job. To see all of my people down there waving the flag has been emotional for me.

Q: I’m sure it has. Nicely put, Andrea. Thank you, see you in Turkey and hopefully see you soon, Craig!
AA: I think it’s more important to see him next year than in Turkey!

QUESTION FROM THE FLOOR

L’Equipe, Jérôme Bourret (FRA), to Sébastien Ogier:

Q: The Yaris has never been so dominant neither in Turkey nor in Sardegna. Is it a worry for you?
SO: Honestly, these are not the kind of things that make me worry anymore. At this point in my career you would need a lot to really worry about anything, to be honest. But honestly I’m really happy with the test we’ve done last week in Greece. I think our engineers also used this break with some good job, and came on the test with very good ideas. We could confirm it in the test. It’s already exciting to see that the things are going forward. Of course, opening the road in Greece will be challenging once again. But on this rally, a lot of things can happen. Speed will be important, being clever… even more.


FIA WRC 2 CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Mads Østberg (NOR), PH Sport


Q: Mads, you and Martin, you were both here at the pre-event FIA Press Conference. Now you are here at the end. Rally Estonia, done and dusted, and complete the win in FIA WRC2 for you, Mads, how are you feeling at the end of the weekend?
MO: Yes, it feels very good to be at the end now, to be honest. Yesterday it felt like a full rally in its own, when we were at the last stage. I couldn't even remember the first stage of the day, so it was a long day yesterday, but today as well, to be honest, was a little bit longer than we are used to for a Sunday. But I’m so glad to be at the end without any real big issues. We had a puncture on the first day which was obviously a big time loss for us, around half a minute, but other than that, some small issues. But we have been able to manage it all through the weekend and stayed really focused, of course, on our championship, which is looking really good now. So, yes, I think we have enjoyed to be here. I think the biggest pressure was coming by phone from France but the gang here in Estonia, we have had a good time.

Q: Well, it certainly looked as if you did out on the stages, plus you said, it was a very long day yesterday, but a good day considering we've been out of WRC action for six months. We needed all of that, I think. In terms of the challenge the rally gave to you, Mads, I know you've been here twice before, you’ve won it outright twice before. Different from back then, more of a challenge now?

MO: Yes, for sure, I mean, it's definitely a rally where experience really counts, much more than any other rally in the world, I think, because here there is so many “maybe” things on this event, is this jump flat or this crest flat and this corner this and that. And some narrow sections, some of them are getting really bad and rapid and others aren’t, so I would love the event to be similar to 2012, but it wasn’t. But it was still a very nice event, but I think all of my previous experience from this rally didn’t help me at all. I remember one jump from back then and that's all. So, to be honest, we had to learn and discover everything again and for sure, it was a little bit different than we expected. I think our testing was done on completely different surface and we didn't have the experience to know that it would be like this, so some mistakes was done for sure but overall I think we should be happy, we made adjustments through the event to adapt to the difficult conditions. I think we did mostly good choices through the rally.

Q: There's been development work happening on the car, and you talked in the pre-event press conference, in difficult times that we're living in now, development is still ongoing, it’s slightly different maybe than it used to be. Are you feeling that the car is getting better in certain areas?
MO: Yes, for sure, we have made steps and I think just looking back two weeks to the ERC event, we were not as fast as we were on this rally. So, for sure, we have made steps already and we know that we have new steps coming with the car and unfortunately they are not ready for this weekend and they probably won't be for the next couple of rallies either. But for sure, it’s nice to know that we are already quite on the pace where we want to be. And we still have some big things coming for the car, so that’s always positive.


FIA WRC 3 CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Oliver Solberg (SWE)

Q: Winner of FIA WRC3, winner outright in category of Rally2 cars, into the WRC points as well, what a weekend you have had here in Estonia, Oliver. We saw you compete here last year with great success and you have got onto to even better now this time. How are you feeling?
OS: It is fantastic! It has been just an incredible weekend. Everything has been very good. Yesterday after service stop, it was long loops and it was tough for the car, I had punctures at the same stage twice. I didn’t like that stage at all but it was enjoyable anyway. I lost some time but that’s how it is and luckily, I took time on the other stages to be able to hold the lead. It was incredible. The roads are amazing. I really liked the twisty sections, it was something new compared to what we are usually used to. It’s nice to have something new all the time. It was very rough but still quite enjoyable when you have to save the car. It was challenging but I love when it’s challenging, so it has been a very good weekend.

Q: We did see an incredible pace from you. Were you absolutely on your limit everywhere or did you back off today when you knew you had a bigger gap?
OS: Of course you have to be clever and it’s puncture risk and very rough, you have to be smart where you have to push or not. But when you drive against a driver like Mads, it’s always pushing everywhere and all the time. He has so much experience of driving and he knows where to push and not. It’s difficult, especially yesterday when it was quite close in the beginning, it’s hard to know if he is going to push flat out or not. You have to always read the times a bit early and it’s like, ah, he’s been pushing or oh, he’s not been pushing! It’s quite funny!

MO: I didn’t know you put so much energy into that, because for me it’s just driving!

OS: He is pushing everywhere. It’s good. You always have to be in your top game. It was a difficult weekend managing because I always love to push flat out all the time. But this time, I had to be smart and back off where I needed to. It worked out and it’s a nice experience for me.

Q: Here we've seen this very quick upward trajectory from you in terms of  performance. You’re achieving so much success immediately. Sometimes it takes drivers a few years to get that success that you’ve already had in your career so early on. Oliver, I have to ask you, where are you seeing yourself next year already?
OS: It’s hard to say. I have only won one rally so far. I still have to work a lot. Every rally is so different and I need to get experience from every rally. In Mexico, I retired already in the first stage with a broken sump. That’s what I love, I’m always learning something new every day. It’s all about the experience. Next year, I’m not really sure what will happen, I’ll drive probably R5 again and just learn as much as possible again every race. Now I have the pace-notes from Mexico. Always coming to new places all the time and then I will have experience for the next year. Then you have a new set of pace-notes and you know a little bit more what you’re doing. It’s all about the experience and gaining speed all the time.


FIA JUNIOR WRC CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Martins Sesks (LVA)

Q: Martin, the Junior WRC winner in Estonia. How are you feeling at the end of the event because we’ve seen some great battles in JWRC this weekend?
MS: This weekend was quite an incredible job for everyone. The stages were really, really rough, and also the guys in R5 (Rally2) said it was rough, so I imagine how it is with the front-wheel drive cars. You needed to be very tactical all the time to see where you need to drive faster and where you need to save your car and make it to the finish. Lots of fast guys overpushed in some places on the first day, so they retired immediately. Afterwards I was seeing that it’s now time to play the tactical game.

Q: We saw when you were here on Thursday for the pre-event FIA Press Conference, the rivalry between you and the Estonian driver Ken Torn. We were keen to see how you would against each other this weekend. You mentioned tactical driving, clever driving out there. But when you look at your performance in terms of the pace that you delivered, are you happy with that?
MS: For sure, I’m really happy. We started on the safe side yesterday and then started to gain the speed. Ken started flat out starting from the first stage. He was really fast, I would say he was even faster. It was also the rally of experience. He has it here and he really knew where to jump and where not to jump, and where it would be rough, and where not.

Q: Must be very satisfying, though, to take the overall win in the Junior category, yes?
MS: For sure, the first time is the first time. It’s really an incredible feeling now!