Mayor of Tartu: Abandoning Rally Estonia would be extremely regrettable

Urmas Klaas.
Urmas Klaas. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Mayor of Tartu Urmas Klaas said he deeply regrets the situation that has led to the cancellation of 2020's Rally Estonia this year which would have taken place in south Estonia and brought millions of euros to the region.

Rally Estonia's organizers announced on Wednesday they would cancel the event after the Estonian Autosport Union raised entrance fees by almost 5,000 percent.

Klaas said Rally Estonia is a top event in motorsport, which has gained international recognition and significantly boosts business in south Estonia.

Rally Estonia has been supported by the Estonian government, entrepreneurs, municipalities in south Estonia and the city of Tartu. This year, too, the City of Tartu budget provides support for the organization of the event. 

"Rally Estonia as a sporting summit has popularized motor racing, strengthened Estonia's international reputation and significantly boosted the tourism sector in South Estonia," said Klaas. The mayor said he deplores the activities of the Autosport Association, which has led to the decision to cancel a high-profile event.

"Urmo Aava and his team have done an outstanding and tireless job in organizing Rally Estonia, and the city of Tartu has had great cooperation with them. All of Estonia has won this summit. The city of Tartu continues to be open to Rally Estonia, sharing the organizers' vision to bring the WRC stage to Estonia," he said.

Klaas is calling on the Estonian Autosport Union (EAL) to fully support the organization of Rally Estonia, not to hinder it. "I hope common sense wins out and Rally Estonia can still be saved."

The Mayor added that Rally Estonia has brought over 50,000 tourists to southern Estonia every year and generates an additional turnover of €5-6 million, which is very important for the region.

It was announced by organizers on Wednesday that this year's Rally Estonia will not take place. They cited organizational issues and a conflicting outlook with EAL as the reason why the event had been canceled.

Rally Estonia director Urmo Aava said the EAL board drew up a new price list making international competition registration fees for international competitions from €2,000 to €100,000 in January this year, just six months before the scheduled start of the rally in July.

"This makes for a price rise of almost 5,000 percent. Paying that level of a fee is not possible, both legally and budget-wise," Aava said.

Aava also recalled that the long-term goal in the agreement between the EAL and Rally Estonia was full World Rally Championship (WRC) status.

"All the aforementioned sudden changes to priorities, strategy, and the price list from the EAL, unequivocally indicate that the EAL does not want to cooperate with the organizers of Rally Estonia. Rather, the impression is left by the opinions publicly expressed by the EAL, to the effect that the international success story of Rally Estonia is detrimental to Estonian motor sport," Aava continued.

Aava added that Rally Estonia officials had been holding negotiations with the EAL for almost three months, in the hope of a compromise being reached, but the association had stuck to its positions.

The race has been held in southern Estonia every July since 2010, and was a promotional rally event for the senior-tier FIA WRC.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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