Fastest round of the FIA European Rally Championship sees title rivals go head-to-head with the best drivers in Estonia
Once again, the ERC has attracted a big field of R5 and Super 2000 cars with seven Ford Fiesta R5s, three Peugeot 208 T16s, two Citroën DS3 R5s and a ŠKODA Fabia S2000 all vying for overall victory. There is a strong eight-car ERC2 field and 16 crews in ERC3 – including 14 ERC Junior drivers.
Rally Estonia won the ERC Rally of the Year award on its first appearance in the calendar last year. It’s a spectacular event with tens of thousands of fans lining the stages as the cars hit almost 215km/h. Last year’s event was won by Ott Tänak (Ford Fiesta R5) at an average speed of 128.6km/h.
Based in the winter sports capital of Otepää, this year’s event takes place over 16 incredibly fast gravel stages in the south east of Estonia, covering 202.86 kilometres. A 2.91km Qualifying Stage gets the action underway on Friday 17 July, before the ceremonial start and a 1.33km City Stage in Tartu (the second largest city in Estonia, behind Tallinn) later that day. Leg one continues the following day with nine stages totalling 137.71km. It includes two runs over the monster Ristimäe stage, which at 34.91km is not only the longest stage of the rally but the second longest in this year’s ERC. And the stage is repeated straight after the first pass, with a service in Otepää in between. The day ends with another city stage – this time a 1.55km test held for the first time in Elva, a small town 25km south of Tartu. Leg two on Sunday (19 July) contains a further six stages totalling 63.82kms before the finish ceremony in Tartu at 16h00.
Estonia’s top drivers out to prove their pace against ERC title contenders
Craig Breen, Kajetan Kajetanowicz and Robert Consani will go head-to-head as the top three placed drivers battle for ERC and ERC Gravel Master supremacy – but they face points-snatching opposition from five Estonian drivers and a multiple Finnish champion, who all have their sights firmly set on victory. Breen has contested the event once before, finishing 29th overall and second in class in a Fiesta R2 in 2011 – but this will almost be like a maiden run as he returns in his immeasurably more powerful Peugeot Rally Academy 208 T16.
Rally Estonia is new to Kajetanowicz as he attempts to close the 21-point gap to Breen in his LOTOS Rally Team Ford Fiesta R5. Consani, who contested the event last year in a Peugeot 207 S2000, returns in a Citroën DS3 R5 eager to improve his third-place position. The local opposition is fierce and arguably the best of the 2015 season so far. Karl Kruuda (Citroën DS3 R5) says the event is “more than just a rally” as he aims for victory, Martin Kangur was fastest on the Qualifying Stage last year and will be super-fast again in his Fiesta R5, while Timmu Kõrge will be aiming to better his third-place finish in 2014 after swapping his Fiesta for a Saintéloc Junior Team Peugeot 208 T16.
Sander Pärn, the winner of the ERC 2WD category 12 months ago, returns with a Fiesta R5, while the hard-charging Raul Jeets appears in a similar car. Multiple Finnish rally champion Juha Salo should be quick in his 208 T16 and Poland’s Tomasz Kasperczyk swaps his ERC2 Subaru for a Tiger Rally Team Fiesta R5. The M-Sport-built R5 machine is also the car of choice for Poland’s Jarosław Koltun and Radik Shaymiev, the Russian making his fourth Rally Estonia start. Czech driver Antonín Tlusťák appears in the sole ŠKODA Fabia S2000.