Estonia WRC: Rally favourite Tanak suffers shock early retirement

Rally Estonia favourite Ott Tanak has retired from the day’s action after the early leader suffered a puncture followed by a wild moment on the fourth stage of the event.

The Hyundai driver started the day by winning the opening stage to take the overall rally lead, but his rally began to unravel on the second test of the day when he suffered a front right puncture.

Tanak was running strongly when his Pirelli tyre appeared to delaminate, ripping bodywork from the front of his i20 halfway through the 17.05km stage.

The Estonian managed to reach the end of the test but lost his lead and dropped to seventh overall after losing more than 20s to stage winner Kalle Rovanpera.

However, his day went from bad to worse on the next stage.

After fitting his only spare tyre, Tanak started the next stage on time but ran wide on fast right hander, resulting in the car running into a ditch on the exit of the corner, 7.3km into the stage.

The 2019 world champion elected to run through a field instead of trying to recover the car before rejoining the road at a later point.

Tanak continued for another kilometre before deciding to pull off the stage and run down a spectator road before eventually bringing the car to a halt.

Cameras captured Tanak climbing form the car to assess the damage on his i20. He was unable to get going and reach the stage finish.

The retirement is yet another bitter blow to Tanak’s championship hopes having retired from leading positions in Portugal and Sardinia.

Ott Tänak, Martin Järveoja, Hyundai Motorsport Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

Ott Tänak, Martin Järveoja, Hyundai Motorsport Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

Photo by: Austral / Hyundai Motorsport

Hyundai Motorsport confirmed Tanak’s retirement from the day and will now retrieve the car in a bid to return under restart rules tomorrow.

“UPDATE SS4: Ott Tanak forced to retire from the day at Rally Estonia. The team will recover the car and bring it back to service," read a statement from Hyundai Motorsport on Twitter.

Tanak wasn't the only driver to suffer drama on the stage as teammate Thierry Neuville and M-Sport Ford's Teemu Suninen picked up left rear punctures, but both managed to reach the stage end.

Toyota’s Kalle Rovanpera leads the rally by 2.5s over Hyundai’s Craig Breen after four stages.

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