Ott Tanak got a 'big boost' on Rally Italia Sardegna last weekend when he notched up his first podium in the World Rally Championship.
The Estonian, who is taking in his first full season this year with the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team, lost over 40 seconds on Thursday, after opting for the harder tyre. However he refused to be fazed and while a number of the more experienced drivers' made errors and went out on day two - including Sebastien Loeb
and Ford WRT duo, Jari-Matti Latvala
and Petter Solberg
– he kept his head and hauled himself up from ninth to third.
He eventually took the final place on the rostrum by almost 1.5 minutes - posting top-eight times in 15 of the 16 stages, including going second quickest in SS7 and third quickest in both SS8 and SS9.
“I am really happy. I didn't feel very good after Thursday evening when we made the wrong tyre choice but since that it has been all uphill and we were getting better and better. At the moment, the feeling is incredible,” Tanak remarked. “For sure this has been a big boost. To have finished without problems and without making any mistakes is very important and I am feeling a lot more confident in the car.
“It is getting better all the time and I feel like I am starting to understand exactly what I need to do now.”
Tanak did concede, however, that to get third was 'important' given his year has been rather trying at times, although to his credit he has still notched up points finishes in seven of the 12 events and with his third place in Sardinia he increased his tally to 52 points, moving him up to eighth in the standings, just one point off Thierry Neuville.
“For sure it [third] is really important. It's our first season with a WRC car and it hasn't been easy,” Tanak continued. “I was probably hoping for too much at the beginning of the year and in some places pushing too hard. But then I saw the feeling was coming and I was improving all the time.
“Before the last stage I couldn't imagine what kind of feeling it could be [to get third], but a few corners before the end I started to realise that it was something incredible.
“The first half of the day on Saturday [the penultimate day] was quite okay, the roads were okay and it wasn't too rough. The second time through though was rougher and I already started to think about things [and the possibility of losing this result]. It wasn't very nice to drive but we managed quite okay and we didn't have any problems, so I'm very happy.”
So will this result help him secure a drive for 2013?
“We'll see! It's quite a difficult situation on the market at the moment. But there's still one event to do and we're going to try our best there. For sure it has given a big push also because in the last few events we had clean runs and we didn't make any mistakes,” he concluded.