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Tanak not far from “being in the fight” after Portugal WRC victory challenge

Ott Tanak feels he’s not far away from “being in the fight” after admitting a World Rally Championship win in Portugal would have been possible without incurring a puncture.

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

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

The 2019 world champion ignited his season last weekend by ending a 2024 podium drought after losing out in an intense victory battle with Toyota’s Sebastien Ogier.

Prior to Portugal, Tanak had struggled for form since rejoining Hyundai this year, headlined by mistakes in the season opener in Monte Carlo and in Sweden, followed by an unfortunate crash in Kenya.

Finding the sweet spot in the i20 N was an issue in Croatia and again in Portugal, although Tanak was able to make progress and drive around the problems last weekend to challenge Ogier.

Tanak briefly led the rally on Saturday before a slow puncture on stage 13 handed the advantage back to the Frenchman, which held to the finish by a margin of 7.9s.

While Tanak admits he is not feeling 100% driving the Hyundai, he is making progress.

“I would say [we could have won without the puncture]. If you take 13 or 15 seconds off [the time] then we were going to be there,” Tanak told Autosport.

“Obviously, Seb was pushing all the way through, so I would say he definitely didn’t slow down because of it.

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: McKlein / Motorsport Images

“Definitely the outcome is not too bad it is just very unfortunate this one stage with the tyre, the slow puncture, otherwise I would say it was quite positive. On Friday we were struggling but I was slowly getting used to the car and in the Power Stage on Sunday I went for a push, but it wasn’t really working anymore, and I had too many mistakes.

“As long as I could keep a little margin, I was able to manage and especially with the second loop when the roads were a bit rougher and when I could lean in the ruts, I was quite ok.

“Let’s say, we are not in a place with the car where I have the speed of the others, but at least we are not far away, and if we keep pushing, we should be in the fight.”

Although Tanak missed out on victory, he scored 26 points, a point more than rally winner Ogier thanks to the championship’s new points structure. The points haul moved Tanak into third in the championship, 31 points behind leader and Hyundai team-mate Thierry Neuville.

When asked if this was a boost to the championship, he added: “Let’s see. Like in Croatia, everybody has still scored the same points. You can do whatever you want but it [this point system] is like being in Kindergarten, and there is a thumbs up for everyone and a thanks for coming.”

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