The FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) will continue with Rally Estonia on the first weekend of September on the roads of Southern Estonia. Due to capacity restrictions, the number of spectators will be limited but according to preliminary information, a total of 20,000 people will get to spectate the event.
On July 2, the organizers of Rally Estonia and WRC promoter GmbH confirmed that the currently suspended World Rally Championship (WRC) season will continue in September with Rally Estonia. The government also allocated a total of €2.5 million to support the WRC round.
On July 9, the government decided to ease restrictions on spectator capacity at public events, both indoors and outdoors, starting from July 15. It was also premised that due to the magnitude of the event, restrictions for WRC Rally Estonia would be assessed more flexibly, with Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) noting that the first ever WRC rally on Estonian soil would need special treatment.
On Monday, it was announced that 20,000 allowed spectators will be allowed on the premises of the event, including 16,000 regular spectators, 1,500 drivers, members of teams, and 2,500 of organizing staff.
The 16,000 rally passes are distributed into 16 different packages, with 1,000 each sold. Through this distribution, the organizers can ensure that no more than 1,000 will be in one general region for too long as the packages are scheduled to move in different locations in different times. Each rally pass allows the spectator to follow five stages of the rally.
On ETV's summer show "Ringvaade suvel" on Tuesday, Tarmo Hõbe, organizer for Rally Estonia said: "As sad as we are, we have to limit capacity this year. Everyone is used to shots of Rally Estonia with massive amounts of fans on the roadside, but we will not see such a picture this year."
The head of the Rally Estonia team, Urmo Aava, added: "16,000 people can purchase a rally pass. In addition, the WRC promoter is broadcasting all 17 stages live and we are working with the promoter on making an exceptional and available package so everyone could have the chance to follow the rally from the safety of their home."
Aava also noted that the organizing team is ready to change their plans in the case of a second wave of COVID-19. "We do not want to ease restrictions any further but we also have to be ready to take the capacity back to zero aswell. It is not a simple process."
Organizers calling for Estonians to offer accomodation for rally fans
WRC Rally Estonia will see world class drivers competing on the roads of Tartu, Otepää, Elva, Kanepi and Kambja on September 4-6. As the rally will most likely bring plenty of fans from other countries, the organizers have called for Southern Estonians to offer up their homes for fans from far away.
Rally Estonia has opened a portal for people and accomodation businesses to offer up their rooms. The guest homes have no special requirments, but the rooms should be clean, safe and ready to host guests.
Urmo Aava said: "All of Estonia's population must contribute. The WRC round being in Estonia this year is not the end goal, but instead the start of something much bigger. The tradition of WRC in Estonia will begin and everyone can contribute to the rally taking place this year."
Daily Postimees reported (link in Estonian) on July 8 that Finnish rally fans have criticized the people of Southern Estonia for the prices of accomodation during the period of Rally Estonia, also noting that this could lead to it being the last WRC round ever held in Estonia.
While the prices no longer reach €6,500 as they did on July 8, there are still options that would cost thousands a night. Most hosts have heard the call however and houses and rooms can be found at around €100 a night.
Organizers of the rally called for people to keep prices reasonable: "That way we can send the message that foreign fans are welcome here both now and in the future."
The first ever WRC round held in Estonia
Rally Estonia will be held on September 4-6 in Southern Estonia. This will mark the return of the currently suspended WRC season and will make Estonia the 33rd country to host a WRC round after the series was started in 1973.
The round will span three days and will be held in traditional Rally Estonia regions in Tartu and Southern Estonia such as Kanepi, Kambja, Otepää and Elva.
A round of the Junior WRC season will also be held during that time, as the series follows the schedule of the WRC. 26-year old Estonian Ken Torn currently holds third place on the season with 15 points, chasing second place Latvian Martins Sesks (19 points) and Swedish Tom Kristensson (28 points).
WRC has already canceled Rally de Portugal, Rally Kenya, Rally Finland, Rally New Zealand. Additionally, Rally of Argentina and Rally d'Italia have been postponed, leaving only the Turkish, German, Welsh, and Japanese rounds remaining on the schedule.
WRC officials also presented an updated schedule for the rest of the WRC season. Rally Estonia will be followed by Rally Turkey on September 24-27, Rally of Germany on October 15-18, Rally d'Italia on October 29-November 1 and Rally Japan on November 19-22. According to the WRC, negotiations are still held with Belgian organizers.
According to the International Automobile Federation (FIA), seven rounds of the season have to be completed to give out the title. Until the COVID-19 pandemic, three rounds were completed, which has led the association to look into alternative options.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste