Blog: Estonia shooting itself in the foot over canceled WRC-promoting rally

Ott Tänak - here competing in the recent Rally Sweden WRC event - would likely have competed in Rally Estonia this year, as he did last year, if it had not been scrapped.
Ott Tänak - here competing in the recent Rally Sweden WRC event - would likely have competed in Rally Estonia this year, as he did last year, if it had not been scrapped. Source: Hyundai Motorsport

Recent news that Rally Estonia, a promotional event for the World Rally Championship series which last year attracted some major names including Estonia's own Ott Tänak, is to be scrapped for 2020 may have come as a shock to many, but the signs were already there a few days before, according to an article on United States-based rally blog and driving school website Dirtfish. There are also some hopeful signs that a rapprochement between the rally's organizers and Estonia's governing motorsports body might unfold, which would be just as well, since Estonia has not done itself any favors so far with the move.

The piece found that Estonia had so thoroughly shot itself in the foot over the rally, that it beggared belief – given international praise for last year's event, attended by top WRC drivers such as then-reigning champion Sebastien Ogier as well as Ott Tänak, his co-driver Martin Järveoja, and Estonia's first rally legend of recent decades, Markko Märtin – as well as rallying being passionately supported by Estonians.

The author, David Evans, said he had raised concerns last week about a potential clash between the Estonian Autosport Union (EAL) and the rally's organizers, headed by former driver Urmo Aava, but these had been rejected on the grounds that the event had its own momentum towards potential full WRC calendar status, ignoring, the author said, corporate egos and the attempted establishment of a pecking order thereof, which in the end swept the event from the table.

One of the strangest incidents over the last few days, Evans wrote, was the emergence of businessman and supermarket magnate Oleg Gross, also a member of the EAL board and a long-time supporter of the rally, as a potential rescuer of the race, who offered €100,000 to the EAL to keep things on track, in every sense of the phrase, an offer which was not, however, accepted or even talked about.

Both sides, Evans said, can see things from their opponents' point of view – Urmo Aava understands the necessity of making money to continue fostering the sport and finding the next Ott Tänak, and Janis Kaal of the EAL gets why the arbitrary inclusion of a 4 percent tax for this year's event (which had not been placed in the original agreement, running 2017-2023, Evans wrote) would have seem frustrating to Aava, which is why the author hopes that a solution may yet be found, particularly as, almost like an unexpected break-up of a couple, there doesn't seem to be any very good reason for the event to have been scrapped.

Rally Estonia, while a huge event, need not be bigger than rallying in Estonia, the piece concludes, which means some egos – possibly even those of Tänak and Järveoja, the piece hinted - might need reining in a little, to put Estonia back on its general upward trajectory in the rally world, as telegraphed by what is arguably the best rally in the world, outside of the full WRC itself.

The original Dirtfish piece is here.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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