The Baltic country’s Lõuna-Eesti Ralli (23 August) has one of the most impressive entry lists outside of the WRC itself, as most manufacturer drivers take the chance to acclimatise to fast gravel roads ahead of Rally Estonia (4 – 6 September).
Naturally, the focus on Sunday will be on Hyundai Motorsport’s defending world champion and local hero Ott Tänak.
“This is a good place to prepare for Rally Estonia,” said Tänak. “The roads are pretty similar to what we have coming for the WRC, so it’s not so surprising to see the others joining too.”
While the 1650 fans lucky enough to get a ticket to the event will be familiar with Tänak and his Hyundai i20, having also seen him win the Viru Rally at the start of July, current WRC leader Sébastien Ogier has never competed in Estonia.
“This [weekend] will be important because after such a long break it’s difficult to find the limit straight away and to have the level of confidence high enough to push from the first kilometre, so I think it’s going to be a big help to be there two weeks before the WRC,” Ogier said.
The Frenchman leads a full factory effort from Toyota Gazoo Racing with a trio of Yaris cars fielded by the Finnish-based squad. Elfyn Evans and Kalle Rovanperä join Ogier.
Tänak’s team-mate, Thierry Neuville, is another Estonian first-timer and the Belgian will be keen to be back on fast gravel for the first time since Neste Rally Finland last season.
M-Sport Ford’s Esapekka Lappi drives a Fiesta World Rally Car run by JanPro Racing. Lappi was scheduled to drive the car at Finland’s Jämsän Äijät Ralli earlier this month, but that outing was cut short by an engine fault in the test.
While the Fiesta won’t be in full 2020 factory trim, it is expected to run some latest specification parts.
Lappi’s M-Sport Ford team-mate, Teemu Suninen, will drive a Fiesta R5. He is joined by a string of WRC 2 and WRC 3 regulars including Nikolay Gryazin, Ole Christian Veiby, Eyvind Brynildsen, Jari Huttunen, Eerik Pietarinen and Emilio Fernandez.
Based in Võru in Estonia’s south-east corner, Ralli Lõuna-Eesti offers 101 competitive kilometres across eight stages on Sunday after a day-long shakedown the previous day.