Ott Tänak

Last year’s champion is looking forward to returning to Umeå

Rally Magazine

The city of birches holds a special place in his heart. It’s where, after four days of intense competition, he stepped onto the podium at The Red Barn Arena as the winner.

“It was a tough competition last year, a battle all the way, and it was intense, so it was an enormous relief when I managed to hold on and win,” he says.

One of two victories

During the 2023 season, the Estonian made a guest appearance in the British M-Sport Ford in the WRC series. After completing the 13 rounds worldwide, Umeå became the place where the 36-year-old secured one of his two victories for the year. The second win was achieved in Concepción, central Chile.

For understandable reasons, Ott holds Rally Sweden and the event in Umeå in high regard. This year, he is back with the Hyundai team (which he left in 2022) alongside last year’s third-place finisher Thierry Neuville, part-time driver Esa-Pekka Lappi, Daniel Sordo, and Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen as teammates. Now he has a fourth-place finish from the season opener in Monte-Carlo, and Thierry won, so it shows that the team is on the right track, and Ott is looking forward to the start in Umeå.

“I have really appreciated Umeå every time I’ve been there. It has had perfect winter conditions with plenty of snow and good competitions. I know it will be the same this year. I am excited,” he remarks.

Snow – challenging but fun

Rally Sweden and Umeå have, almost magically, delivered a winter rally with a few degrees below freezing and the support of a clear blue sky and a sun-drenched Västerbotten in the past two years. Compared to other championship events, Umeå is somewhat unique in this regard, and for Ott, the emotions of driving on snow are authentic and genuine.

“It is very unique to rally in winter. There are so many more aspects that come into play with a mix of surfaces and the car’s performance. But even tire choices play a much larger role than in other competitions. It is very special, but it’s something I appreciate,” he says.

Consistency was the winning factor

Ott Tänak was also the one who mastered the surface and balanced his tire choices the best last year. His consistency over all four competition days was what led him to victory and also provides a hint that rally racing is more than just full-throttle driving. The Estonian demonstrated this clearly last year. Stability behind the wheel was his winning recipe. It’s worth noting that he actually only won one of the 18 special stages last year (SS7 Botsmark).

His fans take over Umeå

As Rally Sweden kicks off, he naturally hopes to see the Estonian flag flying high once again, at least to delight the ever-present fan base that has truly made Umeå their own fortress.

“I am so grateful for the support I receive worldwide. Rally is big back home in Estonia, and it’s the fans who make the sport great. Their energy means a lot to me,” Ott Tänak concludes.