Wednesday | 09 Sep 2020

Rally Estonia debrief

The FIA World Rally Championship visited Estonia for the first time last weekend as the championship blasted back into life following lockdown. The action on the Baltic state’s sandy roads was fast and furious and here we examine some of the hot topics.

Driver of the Rally
There were few dissenting souls pre-rally willing to argue that anyone other than Ott Tänak was going to win in Estonia. The shortest-priced favourite for some time duly delivered, but it was the manner in which he did it that impressed us.

The pressure was immense. His passionate fans were eager to celebrate their country’s first WRC round with a home victory. And, after a zero score following a massive crash in the opening round in Monte-Carlo, Tänak could not afford any more slips-ups in this truncated season.

There weren’t any. He took the lead from teenage starlet Kalle Rovanperä on Saturday’s second stage and was in total control for the rest of the weekend. Job done and championship challenge back in top gear.

Video: Rally Estonia - top 5 moments

Surprise of the Rally
Estonia’s roads are similar to those in Finland. And Takamoto Katsuta’s career has been developed on those super-fast Finnish tracks in the hands of Toyota Gazoo Racing. So if Taka was going to make people sit up and take notice anywhere, it was most likely going to be here.

But how many expected to see the youngster lying fifth before it all went wrong on Sunday? OK, he made a mistake and paid a penalty with a big crash, but this was his most impressive performance yet, outgunning Finns Esapekka Lappi and Teemu Suninen from the start.

One to Forget
A second no-score in consecutive rounds leaves Thierry Neuville’s championship chances hanging by a thread. He trails leader Sébastien Ogier by 37 points, with a maximum 90 available.

Smashed suspension sidelined him from third on Saturday. Then a mechanical problem in his Hyundai i20 prior to the start of Sunday’s closing Wolf Power Stage meant no bonus points. Quite simply, he has to win in Turkey next week.

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Turning Point of the Rally
Rovanperä was reckoned by many to be Tänak’s biggest threat. The Toyota Yaris man led after two stages, becoming the youngest driver ever to sit at atop a WRC event, but on the following Kanepi test a puncture blunted his challenge.

Almost 30sec disappeared, Tänak was in front and another stage later the gap to the next non-Hyundai driver was up to 12sec. He was clear and on his way to the win he so badly needed.