Home hero Ott Tänak must get back to winning ways at Rally Estonia (20 – 23 July) if he is to reignite his fading FIA World Rally Championship hopes.
Tänak trails leader Kalle Rovanperä by 42 points in fourth place approaching round eight of 13 on Estonia’s lightning-fast gravel roads around second city Tartu. It’s a rally Tänak has won four times, but only once since it became a WRC-counting fixture in 2020.
Victory on snow and ice at Rally Sweden has been Tänak’s only success since he re-joined M-Sport Ford at the beginning of this season. He was hindered by technical failures in Mexico and Italy, while tyre troubles limited him to sixth overall in Kenya last month.
He will, however, carry the support of Estonia’s army of passionate flag-waving fans – lining the stages in their thousands.
“We’ve had some quite intense preparations,” . “We did a pre-event test and then a small event, so it’s been a big effort to make it as good as possible for Estonia. Now we are going into the second half of the season we’re definitely not letting the championship go, so we feel like we need to increase our game and put everything in.”revealed the Puma Rally1 Hybrid driver, who is joined in the team by Frenchman Pierre-Louis Loubet
Estonia’s gravel roads are pacy and smooth and the Baltic fixture will be one of the fastest of the season. Reigning champion Rovanperä, who drives for Toyota Gazoo Racing, has proved himself to be the master on such terrain.
Rovanperä teams up with GR Yaris colleagues Elfyn Evans and Takamoto Katsuta in search of his third consecutive Rally Estonia triumph. The Finn signed off his 2022 victory in dominant fashion, outpacing the entire field by over 20 seconds in the Wolf Power Stage.
“Last year the weather was making a difference and I hope we can have some rain this year too, because we will be opening the road again on Friday,”. “Like on any rally, the plan will be to aim for the win, and especially as this is one we have been so strong on before.”he said
Teemu Suninen returns to the WRC’s top level for the first time since 2020 at the wheel of a Hyundai i20 N. Fellow Finn Esapekka Lappi will be another sure-fire contender while Thierry Neuville, who was disqualified for carrying out unauthorised recce activities in Kenya, completes the Korean manufacturer’s line-up.
The rally opens in Tartu on Thursday evening and competitors tackle 21 speed tests covering 300.42km before Sunday afternoon’s finish.