Five-time World Rally Championship event winner Markko Märtin will make his debut in a current specification World Rally Car when he drives a Ford Fiesta WRC at Rally Estonia next month.
Märtin departed full-time WRC competition at the end of 2005, but has kept his hand in with occasional rally outings since. By his own admission, the 12-14 Jukly event will be a step into the unknown.
“I really don’t know what to expect,” he said. “I have been in one 9a 2017 World Rally Car) before, but I was a passenger with Ott [Tänak]. He was driving quite nicely. It felt nice in the fast corners, felt like the aero was working really well. How will I get on? I don’t know. I’ll be quite happy if I stay ahead of the R5 cars.”
The former Subaru, Ford and Peugeot factory driver worked on the original Rally Estonia and paid tribute to organiser Urmo Aava and his efforts in developing the Tartu-based event.
“It’s quite incredible how this event is building,” said Martin. “I was in at the start 15 or more years ago with the decision to go to the region where the rally runs. There’s a really nice infrastructure there and the roads are quite like Rally Finland – there are probably more entertaining roads in some other parts of Estonia, but these are more representative [of Finland], especially the small roads.
“With all the entries, it looks like it’s going to be a really good event and given that it’s my home rally, I had to be part of it.”
Aava admitted he was delighted to have Märtin on the entry list, adding: “Our goal was to have four WRC manufacturer teams at Shell Helix Rally Estonia. The addition of Markko Martin and [co-driver] Kristo Kraag with Ford Fiesta WRC is, in my opinion, on the same level of importance.
“In 2010 they became the first winners of Rally Estonia (in its current guise) and we are honored to have them here again. Markko has an important role in the development of Estonian rally and I’m looking forward to his feedback on the event.”
Rally Estonia, which is an official promotional event of the WRC, will enjoy the largest field of modern World Rally Cars outside this year’s 13 World Rally Championship rounds.
The four WRC manufacturers – Ott Tänak (Toyota Yaris WRC); Elfyn Evans (Ford Fiesta WRC); Esapekka Lappi (Citroen C3 WRC); Andreas Mikkelsen and Craig Breen (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) – are all in attendance as a warm-up for Neste Rally Finland (August 1-4).