ELITE ATHLETES DON’T DEAL IN MAYBE. THE SUPREME MIND IS TUNED TO MAKING THE BEST OF THE HERE AND NOW. LET THAT MIND WANDER, LET IT DREAM AND IT CAN BITE YOU.
Ott Tänak allowed himself to dream last year. In the middle of 2018, the Estonian was pretty much down and out in terms of the title race. He was done. Then came that extraordinary hat-trick of wins in Finland, Germany and Turkey.
Then came Wales Rally GB. And another stretching of those Estonian legs. He was out. In the clear. Coming out of Myherin and heading across the road to Sweet Lamb on the afternoon of the second day, Ott was in the lead of the championship.
Could it? Might it? Maybe. Definitely maybe.
And then came that corner. The left-hander at the top of the hill, high above thousands of fans waving the flag beneath which he was born. Under braking, the Toyota’s sump guard dug in, broke and the front of the Yaris WRC was mortally wounded.
Tänak’s reaction was deeply emotional and enormously moving. He lay on the ground, stared at the sky. The dream he might have dared dream had become a nightmare. He picked himself up and gave it another go in Spain and Australia, but it wasn’t to be.
When he and co-driver Martin Jarveoja arrived in Llandudno for last weekend’s Rally GB, it was time to finish the house they’d started to build 12 months ago.
Ott Tänak is closing on his WRC dream
This time, the foundations were far more secure. Leading the championship coming in, they bossed the weekend and delivered the perfect 30-pointer with maximum Wolf Power Stage points on top of the big P1 25.
The approach had to be different. Having shipped nine seconds with a scary moment in Oulton Park on Thursday night, it took Tänak all of Friday to get his Yaris past the sister machine of team-mate Kris Meeke.
And once his nose was out front, it was tenth-by-tenth, inch-by-inch. There were no whopping time gains to be made this time. Make no mistake, this was no conservative approach from Ott. He was pushing. And pushing hard.
He couldn’t break free from championship rivals Thierry Neuville and Sebastien Ogier in second and third. But what Tänak demonstrated was the ability to drive consistently on the knife-edge.
In a place like Wales, where the grip level changes from corner to corner, that requires huge confidence in the car and monstrous self-belief. He’s got both. And that’s what helped him finish the job in Wales and will, quite possibly, deliver the real dream Down Under next month.