WRC Rally Estonia Preview

Rally car kicking up dust and rocks sideways

 The TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team will look to pick up where it left off when the 2020 FIA World Rally Championship resumes at Rally Estonia on September 4-6. 

The team currently leads the manufacturers’ standings by 21 points, while Sébastien Ogier heads the drivers’ championship with Elfyn Evans second and Kalle Rovanperä fourth. All three drivers made great starts to their debut seasons in the Toyota Yaris WRC at the beginning of this year, with wins for Evans in Sweden and Ogier in Mexico before the season was interrupted because of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

This will be the first time that Rally Estonia has ever been part of the WRC, although all of the manufacturer teams fielded cars at last year’s promotional event. It takes place over fast and smooth gravel roads with many crests and jumps. Since restrictions were eased, the team has prepared for the restart with testing in both Finland and Estonia, which included taking part in the South Estonia Rally last weekend. 

The event will run to a condensed itinerary with most of the stages taking place on Saturday and Sunday and a total of 232.64 competitive kilometres. The rally is based in Tartu, Estonia’s second-largest city, where it will begin with a short opening stage on Friday evening close to the service park at the Raadi airfield. Saturday will consist of 10 stages in total, with a loop of five tests run in the morning and then repeated following mid-day service. Sunday features three stages each run twice without service in between. 

Toyota Yaris World Rally Car Drifting on gravel

Hyundai Motorsport will field a three-car entry into the rally - round four of the season - with Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul, Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja and Craig Breen/Paul Nagle competing in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC.
The team is eager to resume its championship defence following mixed fortunes in the opening three rounds earlier in the year. Victory in Monte-Carlo was followed by consecutive podiums in Sweden and Mexico before the global pandemic put a stop to international motorsport.
Heading to Estonia, which will represent familiar territory for local crew Tänak and Järveoja, the team holds second place in the manufacturers’ standings on 89 points. Two consecutive second places for the crew, in their first season with Hyundai Motorsport, sees Tänak hold fifth place in the drivers’ classification. Monte-Carlo winner Neuville, meanwhile, lies in third place but the Belgian is ready to mount a fightback on Estonian gravel stages, which he last contested in 2012.
Breen will compete in his second WRC event of the season, having joined the team at Rally Sweden back in February. The Irishman is well acquainted with the Estonian roads from four previous events in the country.
First held in 2010, Rally Estonia has become popular in recent years with local fans and for teams looking to prepare for WRC’s Rally Finland. Its position as a WRC event in 2020 will offer crews a high-speed gravel challenge to kick-start the second part of the interrupted season. 
Said to be the biggest motorsport event in the Baltics, Rally Estonia will mark the fastest rally on the calendar in lieu of Finland. Smooth and technical gravel roads feature plenty of jumps and crests to keep crews alert and will demand exact precision from pace notes. The most iconic of these is Otepää’s (9.60km) Alaküla jump.

Elfyn Evans had this to say: “It has been a long time since we have driven competitively. It’s been eased by the fact that we could at least do some testing and get back behind the wheel but there’s nothing like competition. Rally Estonia is new to the WRC and I was lucky enough to be there for last year’s event.

Although the rally didn’t end so well for me, I did enjoy it and I know a little bit about what to expect. The roads are very, very fast: Similar to Finland in some ways but with a few less jumps, and even faster in some places.

As I’ve seen from the testing we’ve done, the car feels strong on these high-speed gravel roads. We’re definitely hoping that we have a good package and hopefully we can get the most out of it.”

Craig Breen had this to say: “I’m really looking forward to Rally Estonia. It’s an event where I have quite a bit of experience in comparison to other crews. 

This year will be my fifth time going there and I am definitely looking forward to being back in a WRC car again after this strange and long period without anything. I was fortunate enough to be back in competition soon after lockdown was lifted and already in June we were testing.

This restart period has been quite busy; it’s great to get back to competing and some form of normality. I think we can perform well in Estonia, as fast rallies generally seem to suit us, so we’ll be aiming for some good results there.”