Five-time world rally winner Markko Martin says he is delighted with his protege Ott Tanak's efforts this year, and believes the 22-year-old's drive on last weekend's Finnsco Rally in Finland was his finest yet.
Tanak, tipped as one of the sport's brightest young stars, was competing in Finland in a one-off Ford Fiesta drive, his first start in an S2000 car, and led the event before sliding off the road near the end of the rally. Martin admitted he had been impressed with the Pirelli Star Driver's performance, and felt that the young Estonian was unlucky not to finish the event.
"I think you would definitely call this a learning year for Ott," said Martin. "If he doesn't make a mistake then the car breaks down, but this was unfortunate. It sounded like an innocent-enough spin that turned into something worse.
Ott hadn't tested the car before the event and felt the Fiesta was lacking grip at the rear, when he turned into the corner, he felt the car starting to go and decided to let it spin, unfortunately, the front wheels dropped off the road and he couldn't get back.
"This was definitely one of Ott's best performances. He'd never driven a Super 2000 competitively before and without a test to go and lead a round of the Finnish Championship was very good. Like I said, it's not the best of years: just before going to Finland, he contested an Estonian round – it was a bit of a last-minute thing, so he wasn't in the best prepared Group N Subaru, but he was a second per kilometer faster than anybody in stage one, then the engine blew up on stage two."
Tanak has been the PSD pacesetter on all but one of the rounds of the FIA's young driver program this season. He led the way in Turkey and Portugal before crashing off the road on the final day of both events, before dominating the conventional Group N cars on Rally Finland. The PSD program resumes in France this weekend.