Three podiums from three rallies is a good start to the championship,...

Three podiums from three rallies is a good start to the championship, Tanak says

Ott Tanak
photo: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Ott Tanak claimed a second place finish on Rally Mexico, maintaining his lead in the 2019 World Rally Championship drivers’ standings. All three Toyota Yaris WRCs finished the gruelling gravel event inside the top eight, helping the team to add to its manufacturers’ championship advantage.

Tanak coped well with running first on the road on Friday as championship leader for the first time in his WRC career

He climbed up into the podium positions on Saturday and came into Sunday just 2.2 seconds away from second place. He claimed that position with a stage win in the first of the day’s three stages, and took another in the next test to further extend his advantage. A puncture denied him the chance to claim bonus points in the Power Stage, but he held onto second place.

“It has been a good weekend. This has been a very demanding event: tough for the car, tough for the tyres and tough for the drivers inside the car. I believe we managed it well and I’m really happy to make it through without mistakes or problems. It really shows how strong we are. I had a puncture on the Power Stage. So there was nothing I could do there. But the first two stages were good and we managed to get the second place. It’s been a good start to the championship with three podiums from three rallies, and it would be great if we can carry on like this.”

Kris Meeke saved his tyres for the Power Stage, where he was second fastest to claim four bonus points

“We were in a secure fifth place in the overall standings, so we had to balance protecting that with a push in the Power Stage. I saved my tyres through the first two stages, which I think was the right strategy. I then gave it everything in the Power Stage, while still making sure to bring home the fifth place. It’s been a tough rally for me after the puncture while we were leading, but to come away with 14 points is still positive. For the team and for the manufacturers’ championship it’s been a really strong rally”, the Briton commented.

After restarting the event on Saturday following an electrical fault, Jari-Matti Latvala moved up to seventh place overall on the penultimate stage

He and co-driver Miikka Anttila had to make last-minute repairs before the final stage but made it to the finish in eighth.

“I don’t think I’ve ever fought so hard to get four points!”, Latvala admitted.

“At the end of the second stage of the day, we hit some bedrock with the sump guard. We thought we had no chance to continue but I said we can’t give up at this point. The sump guard was only half-fixed so I couldn’t drive fast in the Power Stage, and we were late into the time control so we lost seventh place by four seconds. But at least we made it to the end. There have been a lot of things happening this weekend, hopefully the next rally will be a bit calmer!”

Team Principal Tommi Mäkinen also said it was a very difficult rally for the drivers, for the engineers and for the mechanics.

“But we have improved a lot here compared to the previous two years. There were no issues with the cooling packages and the performance has been strong. Ott did very well running first on the road for the first time with no complaints and I think he got the maximum from the situation. Kris and Jari-Matti were unfortunate but they kept fighting and scored some good points, helping us in the championship”, Mäkinen added.