Ott Tänak is the Estonian rally driver who debuted in the World Rally Championship in 2009, scoring twelve wins since then and becoming the world champion in 2019.
He was a protege of Markko Märtin, the Estonian rally legend who was active in rallying until 2005. Under Märtin's guidance, Tanak won Estonian rally championship two times and progressed to the World Championship, joining M-Sport World Rally Team in 2012. Since then, he dropped out and returned to M-Sport few times, scoring his maiden WRC victory in 2017 and finishing third in the championship that year.
He was third again in 2018, driving for Toyota Gazoo Racing, and then climbed to the top of the rally world in 2019.
Tänak started his career at the age 14
Ott Tänak was born on October 15, 1987, in Kärla Parish at Estonian island Saaremaa. He recorded his first competition at the age 14, participating at 2001 Saaremaa Rallisprint with Volkswagen Scirocco.
In 2004, he competed both in the Estonian rally championship and rallysprint championship, driving Volkswagen Golf, scoring few 2WD class podiums.
Two-time Estonian rally champion
After three more seasons with VW Golf and Renault Clio, Tänak switched to Subaru Impreza WRX STi in 2008, driving for Subaru Autospiritist, the team run by Markko Märtin. After two podiums with that car, Ott gets a new version of Impreza and scored his first victory at Paide Ralli. With two wins and four more podiums, he became the 2008 Estonian Rally champion. His co-driver was Raigo Molder.
WRC debut at 2009 Rally de Portugal
In 2009, Tänak has won one more Estonian title, while at the same time he started his international career. In April 2009, Ott debuted in the World Rally Championship, driving Subaru Impreza STi N14 for Martin's MM Motorsport at Rally de Portugal. He finished 20th overall and 9th in N4 class. He returned to world's rally stages in Finland in July, crashing out during the first day of the rally.
Tänak was Pirelli Star driver in 2010
In September 2009, Tänak won the European Pirelli Star Driver shootout, held in Austria. The award was participation on six rounds of the 2010 World Rally Championship with Pirelli's Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X. In those six events, he scored two wins in the PWRC category at Rally Finland and Rally GB, which secured him fourth place in the final PWRC classification. His co-driver in was Kuldar Sikk.
During 2010, Tänak also competed with three more cars in various national and international events – Subaru Impreza STi, Ford Focus RS WRC 03 and Ford Fiesta S2000.
Second place in the 2011 SWRC competition
He continued to drive MM Motorsport's Ford Fiesta S2000 in the SWRC class of the 2011 World Rally Championship, participating in seven events and finishing second in the championship points, behind Juho Hanninen. Tänak was the winner in three rallies – in Italy, Germany and France.
At Rally Mexico he finished 10th overall and scored his maiden WRC points. At the next event, Rally d'Italia Sardegna, he was again in the points, finishing seventh. The best result (6th place) followed at the end of the season, at the 2011 Wales Rally GB, where he made his debut in a Ford Fiesta WRC prepared by M-Sport Stobart, testing DMACK's tyres in preparation for their entry into the championship in 2012.
2012 - first full season with WRC car
The season 2012 was Tänak's first full season in the WRC-spec car. He was driving Ford Fiesta WRC for M-Sport Ford World Rally Team, as the team's leading driver alongside Russian Evgeny Novikov. After finishing 8th at season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo, Tänak took his first stage win on SS14 of Rally Sweden, but retired from rally because of engine failure.
Maiden WRC podium at Sardinia
It was the season of ups and downs, with few accidents (Portugal, New Zealand, Germany and GB) which disappointed both the team and the driver. Tanak finally scored his first WRC podium at Rally Italia Sardegna in October, finishing third behind Mikko Hirvonen and Evgeny Novikov. On the final round of the season, the Rally Catalunya, he was in the lead after SS2 but crashed out on the final day when he was fifth.
2013 - competing in Estonia with his own team
At the end of the 2012 season, Tanak was 8th in the WRC drivers' standings, two places behind his teammate Novikov. Such a result determined his destiny in the M-Sport team, leaving him without a seat for 2013 season. He returned to Estonia, leading his own team OT Racing in the Estonian championship and driving the Subaru Impreza STi N12. He scored four podiums in four events, finishing 2nd overall and first in N4 class.
Returning to world's rally scene in 2014
In 2014, Tanak returned to world's rally scene, competing with M-Sport's Fiesta WRC in two events (Sweden and Portugal) and with Drive Dmack's Ford Fiesta R5 in seven events, fighting for the WRC2 trophy. He took one WRC2 class victory (Poland) and added two podiums, to finish sixth in the final classification.
For the last event of the season, Drive Dmack entered Wales Rally GB with Fiesta WRC car and Tanak finished seventh. Besides WRC, Tanak participated in two events of the European championship, winning the Rally Estonia with MM Motorsport's Ford Fiesta R5. During 2014, Raigo Molder again took codriver's seat next to Ott.
Video : Tanak's crash in Mexico
2015 - one more season with M-Sport
For 2015 season, Tänak returned to M-Sport World Rally Team, pairing with Elfyn Evans. Same as three seasons earlier, Tanak struggled with M-Sport's Fiesta and scored only one podium, the third place at Rally Poland. He finished 10th in the championship points, three places behind his teammate Evans.
The most remembered moment of 2015 was Tänak's accident at Rally Mexico in March when he crashed out into the lake during the third day. The car was totally sunk, earning the nickname TiTänak. M-Sport's mechanics made a heroic overnight effort and repaired the car, so Tänak restarted on the last day.
DMack's driver in 2016 WRC season
The M-Sport completely change the driver's line-up for 2016, so Tänak had to look out for another team. He joined newly formed DMACK World Rally Team to drive the #12 Ford Fiesta WRC.
His best result was second place at Rally Poland. He was the leader for most of the last day, but lost the victory from Andreas Mikkelsen in the last two stages. He repeated the second place at Wales Rally GB, ending a championship 8th in the points.
Maiden WRC victory at 2017 Rally d'Italia Sardegna
For 2017, a year when new 380-hp cars were introduced, Tanak had been chosen to drive the #2 Ford Fiesta for M-Sport, alongside four-time world champion Sebastien Ogier in the #1 car.
Tanak scored his maiden WRC victory at Rally d'Italia Sardegna in June. The second victory followed at ADAC Rallye Deutschland. He finished third in drivers' standings, contributing to M-Sport title in Manufacturers' category.
Ott Tanak joined Toyota Gazoo Racing in 2018
For the 2018 WRC season, he decided to left M-Sport and to join Toyota Gazoo Racing. Driving the #8 Toyota Yaris WRC, he scored his first win with the Japanese manufacturer in the fifth round in Argentina.
Then, he won three rounds in a row in Finland, Germany and Turkey, joining Thierry Neuville and Sebastien Ogier in a fight for the title. At the end of the season, he was third in the points for the second year in a row. As a consolation, Toyota won Manufacturers' championship.
Ott became world rally champion in 2019
In 2019, the trio of Ott Tanak, Sebastien Ogier and Thierry Neuville dominated in the championship again, taking all but one victories. Ott Tanak scored six victories and secured championship title even before the end, in the penultimate round in Spain.