Tue 19 Jul 2022

View from the service park - Estonia

The view from the service park at Rally Estonia last weekend was taken largely from beneath an umbrella.

And the umbrella worked both ways – it kept the sun out of your eyes for 10 minutes before the rain returned for the next 10 minutes.

The visit to Tartu was an absolute meteorological mystery tour – as you’d probably expect from a region which endured its first tornado in 15 years during the recce for round seven of the FIA World Rally Championship.

Changeable weather always throws a curved ball into a WRC round and that’s exactly what we saw in Estonia – on a daily basis. The nation’s third consecutive world championship qualifier was an absolute thriller. And the best bit? The fans were back and back in their thousands.

Estonia was the WRC round which marked the series’ tentative return following the outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020. For completely understandable reasons, the 2020 and 2021 events had to be run under a strict pandemic protocol.

Last week was a return to the sport as spectators know and love it.

The ceremonial start in the centre of Tartu had always been a big part of Rally Estonia’s schedule and Thursday night demonstrated just why. The atmosphere was out of this world, the noise, the number of fans and the absolute love for home favourite Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja was extraordinary.

And that was just the start. The service park at the iconic Estonian National Museum was packed – five and six deep outside the garage of their Hyundai i20 N Rally1.

The stages were lined with fans armed with blue, black and white flags and even though this one would go the way of Kalle Rovanperä, the cheering simply never stopped.

Estonia demonstrated, once again, the true multi-national appeal of our sport. Yes, the overwhelming majority of those out there wanted a second Tänak win in three years, but they were also supporting the sport of rallying.

They stood in the sunshine, the rain, the sunshine, the cloud, the sunshine and the rain and they refused to move. Commitment was greeted with klaxons and air horns, never more so than when Junior WRC charger and next generation Estonian hero in the making Robert Virves arrived.

Once again, Rally Estonia made for the most memorable of weeks.

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