RALLYING’S SUMMER SPEEDFEST HITS TOP GEAR THIS WEEKEND WHEN A STAR-STUDDED ENTRY LINES UP AT THE INAUGURAL WRC PROMOTIONAL RALLY IN ESTONIA.
The super-quick gravel roads of Shell Helix Rally Estonia have lured all four WRC manufacturer teams to the non-championship event, eager to switch into speed mode ahead of next month’s Neste Rally Finland (1 – 4 August).
Home hero and WRC leader Ott Tänak tops the entry in his Toyota Yaris. The 2018 winner faces stiff World Rally Car competition from the Hyundai i20s of Andreas Mikkelsen and new signing Craig Breen, Elfyn Evans’ Ford Fiesta and Esapekka Lappi’s Citroën C3.
“I know from last year that competing on these fast roads is a really good preparation for us and the team before Rally Finland. But above all, it was a great feeling to win in front of so many of our fans and I hope we can bring them the same enjoyment this time,” said Tänak.
Five-time WRC rally winner Markko Märtin, the first Estonian to score a WRC victory, and fellow countryman Georg Gross drive Fiestas while Valerii Gorban wheels out an older-generation Mini Cooper.
Supplementing the main fight is a strong support category entry, headed by Teemu Suninen who steps back from World Rally Car duties to give M-Sport’s Fiesta R5 its competitive debut.
The Finn faces competition from WRC 2 regulars Eerik Pietarinen, Nikolay Gryazin (both Skoda Fabia) and Takamoto Katsuta (Fiesta), as well as teenage sensation Oliver Solberg in a Volkswagen Polo GTI.
More than 100 cars will start the event, which kicks off with a Friday afternoon qualifying stage for the manufacturer team drivers, ahead of the evening opening ceremony in Tartu.
On Saturday drivers face eight gravel speed tests and a street stage in Elva, covering 91.82km. Sunday’s second leg comprises five more dirt stages before the closing street test in Tartu. It all adds up to 151.72km.
WRC’s tie-up with Rally Estonia is the latest promotional activity following the 2019 season launch at Birmingham’s Autosport International show in January, a roadshow in central Milan last December and the end-of-season Gala Night in Sydney the previous month.