WRC Rally Estonia 2020: General competition info and safety measures ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Hyundai World Rally Car at last year's Rally Estonia. The event has since become an official WRC round, as many host countries have had to cancel their respective events.
Hyundai World Rally Car at last year's Rally Estonia. The event has since become an official WRC round, as many host countries have had to cancel their respective events. Source: Jaanus Ree

The first ever World Rally Championship (WRC) event to be held in Estonia will begin on Friday, September 4, with the first stage of the event starting at 7.08 p.m and conclude on Sunday with a final ceremony at 3.30 p.m. ERR News has brought together all the information about the event and the safety measures.

The race 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 first full calendar WRC event in Estonia will begin on Friday, September 4 and conclude with the finishing podium and award ceremony at 3.30 p.m. on Sunday.

A total of 17 special stages over 232.64 km are to be held, with 60 competitors registered in the entry list, of which 13 are top-class WRC cars and their crews.

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, which hosted the warm-up South Estonia rally the weekend before last.

Reigning world champion Ott Tänak (Hyundai) is the obvious favorite for the historic event in Estonia, as the Saaremaa man looks to begin the season restart with a successful rally on his home roads. Tänak won the South Estonia Rally on July 24, effectively a warm-up event for WRC Rally Estonia.

The driver season standings are currently led by Frenchman Sebastien Ogier (Toyota) with 62 points, followed by Welshman Elfyn Evans (Toyota, 54 points) and Tänak's teammate, Belgian Thierry Neuville (42 points). Tänak sits in fifth place with 38 points after crashing out in the opening event of the 2020 season in Monte Carlo.

ERR News will be covering the event over the weekend. Coverage of the event will also be broadcast on ETV:

  • Friday: 8 p.m., 9.30 p.m.
  • Saturday: 9.30 a.m., 9.20 p.m.
  • Sunday: 12.30 p.m. (Power Stage)

Coronavirus and WRC Rally Estonia

Organization

As the coronavirus pandemic raged around the globe, plenty of discussion around proper safety and capacity measures also took place in Estonia.

Rally Estonia was confirmed as a WRC event on July 2 and a decision to sell 16,000 rally passes was made on July 15, following an easing of spectator capacity restrictions on July 9.

Buyers of the 16,000 rally passes will be separated into batches of 1,000, with the organizers ensuring sufficient distancing and movement between regions of the rally. Each rally pass allows the spectator to follow five stages of the rally and each pass is personalized.

Tiia Luht, head of the Health Board's (Terviseamet) Southern Region, said on Wednesday that decisions regarding safety risks will be made quickly and on an ongoing basis.

Luht told ERR that Health Board inspectors and rally organizers have been in constant communication throughout and inspections are conducted until the rally officially begins. In addition to an outer perimeter, set for the event's premises (read more below), an entrance process of disinfecting the hands of each spectator, who will then receive a mask 30 seconds from then, is also implemented.

Spectators are obligated to wear a mask at all times during the event in all spectator areas for the purpose of curbing the spread of the coronavirus.

Disinfectant stations and dispensers are spread around the roadside spectator regions, in addition to detailed plans on toilet placements.

All drivers, their team members and people connected to the competition center at the Estonian National Museum will be tested for coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Further info is available on the Rally Estonia webpage.

Decisions taken by the Health Board and WRC Estonia

Here are some of the stories on coronavirus alleviation measures implemented to alleviate the risk of spread during WRC Rally Estonia, as reported by ERR News:

In order to ensure the safety of spectators present, the Health Board has established movement restrictions in the special stage areas of the rally, reinforced by the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA).

Each special stage is surrounded by a perimeter, which only local residents, pre-registered guests, emergency and operative vehicles, rally staff and the 16,000 rally pass spectators are allowed to enter on September 3-6. The entire perimeter is under PPA surveillance for the time, with the police providing surveillance on land and in air.

A map of the perimeter is available here.

Urmo Aava, head organizer for next weekend's WRC Rally Estonia, is calling on spectators to not chat to rally drivers at the event.

Aava told ERR on August 31: "I am calling on everyone - if you see a driver even just standing on the roadside - don't approach them for a conversation. It is a point of risk. We've already made the decision to restrict spectators from the service park area. That is reasonable."

Spectators were barred entrance from the service park area. As some rally passes contained entry, refunds were offered.

The government announced on August 18 that an exemption regarding movement restrictions and testing would be made for athletes traveling in and out of Estonia for competition purposes during August.

The exemption technically lasted until September, as testing became an alternate option for everyone entering the country, but the period in August allowed for many rally drivers to enter the country without strict quarantine measures.

How to keep yourself safe

The organizational team has developed the following guidelines for visiting the event, as written on the event's webpage:

  • Don't come if you don't feel well
  • Move with your group
  • Stay with your group
  • Disinfect your hands
  • Wear a mask
  • Don't socialize
  • Download the HOIA app
  • Bring your identity document

General safety measures, including where to position yourself in relation to faster sections of the road and where to cross, are available here.

Disinfectant stations and dispensers are spread around the roadside spectator regions, in addition to detailed plans on toilet placements.

The full organizer's programme of the event is as follows:

Friday, September 4:

  • 9.01 a.m. Shakedown Abissaare
  • 6 p.m. Official start podium
  • 7.08 p.m. SS1 Visit Estonia / Tartu

Saturday, September 5:

  • 6.38 a.m. Service A
  • 7.40 a.m. SS2 Ramudden / Prangli 1 
  • 8.21 a.m. SS3 VIA 3L / Kanepi 1
  • 9.08 a.m. SS4 LHV / Otepää 1
  • 10 a.m. SS5 Tarfurgo / Mäeküla 1
  • 11.19 a.m. SS6 Sportland / Elva 1
  • 12.24 p.m. Service B
  • 2.37 p.m. SS7 Betsafe / Prangli 2
  • 3.18 p.m. SS8 TREV-2 / Kanepi 2
  • 4.08 p.m. SS9 Postimees / Otepää 2
  • 5 p.m. SS10 Cramo / Mäeküla 2
  • 6.19 p.m. SS11 Cronimet / Elva 2
  • 7.24 p.m. Service C

Sunday, September 6

  • 6.09 a.m. Service D
  • 7.35 a.m. SS12 Saku /Arula 1
  • 8.09 a.m. SS13 Swecon / Kaagvere 1
  • 9.08 a.m. SS14 Carglass /Kambja 1
  • 10.49 a.m. SS15 Softmed / Arula 2
  • 11.28 a.m. SS16 Fat Burner / Kaagvere 2
  • 1.18 p.m. SS17 Circle K / Kambja 2 (Power stage)
  • 3.30 p.m. Finish podium and award ceremony

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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