Ott Tänak and the ADAC Rallye Deutschland - a combination that obviously works well. In 2017, the fast Estonian celebrated his second WRC victory at the German WRC event, replacing the previous year's winner, Sébastien Ogier. The following year, Tänak repeated his victory in the Saarland region, clearly demonstrating that he is currently one of the best rally drivers in the world. This year, the 31-year-old, who won in Sweden at the start of the season and in Chile last weekend, will be among the top favourites again at the German event of the FIA WRC (22 to 25 August). In the interview below, he explains what he likes especially about the ADAC Rallye Deutschland.
Mr Tänak, the ADAC Rallye Deutschland has been the only WRC event which you were able to win twice. What is it that makes you so strong in Germany?
I've always had a good package to rely on in Germany which has given me a lot of confidence. The ADAC Rallye Deutschland is very special: an event with so many different features and surfaces so the car really needs to work everywhere.
In 2017, you carried the day with Ford, in 2018 with Toyota. What other differences are there, when you compare the two wins?
My first win in Germany came about in very tricky conditions, because we had massive rain on the first day. We managed to make a good tyre call and that's what made the difference. 2018 was a bit different: There was a big fight at first between us and Seb [Sébastien Ogier] until he had an unfortunate puncture on the second Panzerplatte stage.
Ever since the ADAC Rallye Deutschland became part of the WRC calendar (2002), we've had only 5 different winners. Which skills does it take to win this rally?
The main thing, I reckon, is to be able to adapt quickly to all kinds of different conditions and stages. In the vineyards, you need lots of focus; the fast forest roads require good confidence and the Panzerplatte needs plenty of both - after all, it's a constantly changing event.
How would you, from the perspective of a driver, describe the unique challenges of the ADAC Rallye Deutschland?
Stages can be very different from one to another and for that we need a wide setup window for the car to work everywhere. The stages are really nice - especially early on, when they are still clean. During the second loop, though, we always get a lot of dirt, which makes things even more difficult. Quite often, the weather can also surprise you and suddenly turn the race on its head.
Which of the Special Stages are more to your taste, those in the vineyards or those on the Baumholder military range? Could you explain?
The Special Stages are all very challenging. But honestly, I've enjoyed the vineyards a little more over the past few years. Baumholder is a lot of fun, too, but it's always a bit tricky to push the limits there. The Hinkelstein boulders make the stage quite dangerous and I'm not to keen to go to the limit here either - still, most of the time we have no choice.
It's become a tradition for many fans to gather at the Panzerplatte to celebrate a great rally festival. As a driver, do you notice much of all the hullabaloo the fans make?
I always see a lot of people there. Of course, I believe it's a great idea that the fans can follow 2 stages from the same place and constantly see some action going on. But we still have more noise inside the car than they can make outside - so we can't really hear them cheer us on.
The Power Stage of the ADAC Rallye Deutschland will take place in the vineyards this year. What do you think does that mean in terms of action and excitement?
It's very easy to make a mistake in the vineyards. They have lots of different junctions which quite often look the same but obviously aren't. The gaps between drivers are usually very small so it should be a very exciting Power Stage.