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WRC Rally Italy

Hyundai explains Tanak’s “be safe, not push it” WRC Sardinia call

The extra risk required for Ott Tanak to challenge Sebastien Ogier for the Rally Sardinia lead on Saturday was “unreasonable”, according to Hyundai World Rally Championship boss Cyril Abiteboul.

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

Tanak was embroiled in an intense fight for the rally lead with Toyota’s Ogier across Saturday’s rough gravel stages.

The 2019 world champion trailed Ogier by 4.5s heading into Saturday’s stages, but emerged with a 3.5s lead after the morning loop.

Ogier picked up a puncture in the day’s opening stage, which allowed Tanak to pounce as Ogier cautiously completed the loop without a spare wheel.

However, at the end of stage nine, Tanak revealed that his Hyundai team had asked him to “be safe and not push it”. The call came after team-mate and championship leader Thierry Neuville crashed out of third position.

Following the decision, Tanak ended Saturday 17.1s behind Ogier but the Estonian admitted he was struggling for confidence to challenge for the lead.

Abiteboul has since moved to explain the thinking behind the team call.

“I will never ask a driver to slow down, but the discussion we had was about risk versus reward,” Abiteboul told Autosport.

“Rally is all about that. The question was what is the extra level of risk that you need to take in order to feel you can have a go and a push and attack Ogier?

“I could feel from his [Ott’s] feedback that increasing the risk level was simply unreasonable given the level of confidence he has in the car.

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: Austral / Hyundai Motorsport

“I think he is still trying to work around the limitation of the car, which we have discussed a lot.

“On that basis it was judged unreasonable to increase the risk to the extent where we could be a threat on Ogier.

“That was the conclusion of the exchange; it doesn’t mean to slow down. It is not what I would qualify [as] a team order. I don’t want to be precious about terminology.

“There was an exchange and after having lost a car with Thierry and it was clear that for Ott this would be a good result for himself and the team, I felt it was right to have this type of action and this is something I like to do occasionally.”

When asked about the decision, Tanak added: “Clearly after Thierry went out we had only two cars left and, with the championship on the table, it is clear you can’t risk to lose another car.

“Nobody said I couldn’t fight Seb, but I was told not to take any risk.

“But in this situation where I couldn’t really find any good feeling in the car, especially this afternoon, if you keep pushing the risk is always on the table.

“I didn’t have a good feeling in the car, so I had to slow down.”

Tanak has since slashed Ogier’s lead to 6.6s on Sunday morning with two stages remaining.

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