OTT TÄNAK DELIVERED THE RESULT HIS HOME FANS CRAVED BY SCORING A DOMINANT VICTORY AT THE INAUGURAL WRC PROMOTIONAL RALLY AT SHELL HELIX RALLY ESTONIA ON SUNDAY AFTERNOON.The Toyota Yaris driver controlled Saturday’s opening leg, winning seven of the nine speed tests in frequently changing weather to build a 33.4sec lead over Andreas Mikkelsen’s Hyundai i20.
His dominance of the non-championship rally was even greater on Sunday. He won all six tests to drive onto the podium in Tartu with a 1min 03.5sec advantage.
“It was a great weekend, we can see the amount of people we have here. It’s definitely a rally nation and I believe it’s great to have this event here, and the manufacturers,” said Tänak, who was cheered on by tens of thousands of fans roadside.
All the WRC manufacturer teams took the opportunity to prepare for next month’s Neste Rally Finland (1 – 4 August) on Estonia’s similar high-speed gravel roads, and Esapekka Lappi completed the podium in a Citroën C3, a further 23.6sec back.
Although trying different set-up configurations was Lappi’s priority, he was within striking distance of Mikkelsen until he hit a bump and damaged a tyre three stages from the end.
“The stages here are certainly a little faster than at home, and the surface is softer too, but that enabled me to get re-accustomed to the sensations and techniques of driving at very high speeds,” said the Finn.
Elfyn Evans drove his Ford Fiesta into fourth, while Craig Breen gained valuable experience of his i20, finishing fifth on his competitive debut for the Korean manufacturer. Former Ford and Peugeot works driver Markko Märtin completed the top six in another Fiesta.
Mikkelsen and Evans were the only drivers other than Tänak to win a stage, claiming one each on Saturday.
Teenage star Oliver Solberg won the R5 class, and took seventh overall, in a Volkswagen Polo. The 17-year-old led from the opening stage and nobody got close to him as he cruised home with a 1min 28.5sec advantage, despite jarring his back after some big jumps.
“I knew this competition would be tough but from the start my focus was on just driving my rally – not looking to anybody else. When we got into the lead and we were still taking time out of people then I started to manage the driving a bit more to control the gap,” he said.