Ott Tänak believes a bold tire choice for the afternoon of the first day of the ADAC Rallye Deutschland’s speed tests provided the platform for his maiden asphalt victory in the race.
He ignored advice from within M-Sport World Rally Team to gamble on mixing Michelin’s full wet ties with soft compound rubber for the second pass of the streaming Mosel vineyards.
Tänak opted for three of each, an unusual choice as it meant matching one soft with the wet weather rubber, which had never been used competitively since becoming available in Germany 12 months ago.
It was an inspired choice as the Ford Fiesta driver won both vineyard stages to regain a lead from Andreas Mikkelsen that he was never to lose en route to an unflustered 16.4-second victory.
“We took a brave tire decision which everybody on the team fought me for, but it worked out very well. The tire decision decided the whole rally I would say,” explained the Estonian. “It was a tricky event which started in a very difficult way with extreme weather conditions and a lot of dirt on the road.”
Team-mate Sébastien Ogier regretted not following Tänak’s decision as he fought with Thierry Neuville for vital points in their title fight.
“When you’re in a close fight for the championship, like we were with Thierry, it’s difficult to take these rain tires that we’ve never used before and don’t have any experience with,” he said. “It’s easier when you’re a bit further back in the standings where you can try something, but for us we did not dare to make the choice at this point. In the end it cost us some time.”
Victory enabled Tänak to close on Ogier and Neuville in the standings. He is 33 points behind his team-mate and hasn’t ruled out a late title charge.
“It is never over before it is over. We managed to get closer to the two guys in front of us. It is three rallies to go and the gap is not too big, so let’s see what happens,” he said.