Saturday | 29 Aug 2020

Brakes come off WRC hiatus in Estonia

Friday night. Everybody looks forward to Friday night. Next week, probably more than ever, Friday night is eagerly awaited. The FIA World Rally Championship is back!

Rally Estonia’s opener, a 1.28km dash on the edge of host city Tartu, will mark the start of a fast, frenetic, run-in to this year’s championship. The series restarts with its Coronavirus precautions in place, with service park personnel as rigorously tested as the rally cars set to take the spotlight on the stages.

And what a stage awaits. The roads around Tartu are some of the fastest in the world. Last year Ott Tänak won this event at an average speed of 120.30kph.

That would have been quick enough to make it into the top 20 fastest WRC rounds of all time. And that was a test event. If the weather plays ball, the winning speed this year could well trouble the top end of that table.

Video: Rally Estonia

Tänak will be a man in demand. He’s the local hero, the megastar from the island of Saaremaa. Last year, at the launch of Tänak the Movie, police closed roads to allow him and Martin Järveoja to drive a Toyota Yaris untroubled through the streets to the film première. The streets were packed with well-wishers and flag-wavers. Expect more of the same.

Spectating on the stages will be strictly controlled due to Covid-19, but there’s nothing to stop Estonians living on the route to step outside their homes and offer a socially-distanced cheer.

A Tänak victory would complete Rally Estonia’s fast-track to dreamland story. And there’s a good chance of the 32-year-old delivering.

His speed to win last weekend’s Lõuna-Eesti Ralli was strong. But you get a feeling there’s still more to come. Question is, is it enough to contain the well-documented pace and performance of the high-speed express train that is a Yaris?

There’s so much to get excited about. Beyond Tänak holding the hopes and dreams of a nation in the palm of his hand, there’s going to be a fascinating intra-Toyota tussle. Sébastien Ogier, Elfyn Evans and Kalle Rovanperä all have the potential to top the podium.

Rovanperä’s second place at last weekend’s warm-up marked him out as a genuine threat. Could the 19-year-old smash more WRC records next week?

M-Sport Ford’s Finns Esapekka Lappi and Teemu Suninen are both fabulous in the fast stuff and there’s no doubting the Fiesta’s speed.

Beyond the frontrunners, there’s a WRC 2, WRC 3 and Junior WRC scrap to look forward to.

LIVE STREAM SCHEDULE RALLY ESTONIA

LIVE STREAM SCHEDULE RALLY ESTONIA

When WRC returns from 4-6 September, WRC All Live will be there bringing you every second of the action. Check out the schedule ...

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As you can imagine, after a few months at home, the field for all three categories are packed with quality. Picking a winner in any one of the three classes would be folly. Estonia will provide one of the most exciting and open rallies in years.

And it’s now just six days away.

• Full coverage from Rally Estonia will be available on WRC+ All Live here, including every stage broadcast as it happens as well as key interviews, features and expert analysis from the service park.