Otepää winter rally back after five-year absence ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

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Winter in Estonia (photo is illustrative). Source: ERR

The Otepää Winter Rally makes a return to the calendar after a five-year absence, ERR's sports portal reports, though this year's event will take place without spectators, as a result of coronavirus restrictions.

Janis Kaal, board chair of the Estonian Motorsport Association (Eesti autospordi liit) said that: "Unfortunately, the epidemiological situation has not improved compared with last year, and as a result the current restrictions must be taken into account when organizing events."

Spectators will not be permitted at the rally's speed test stages or in the maintenance area, the organization says.

The rally was announced Thursday and takes place on February 13, the first time Estonia has hosted a winter rally since 2015, when the event took place in Võru County. Mild winters in the intervening years were behind the hiatus.

The event's director, Marko Koosa, says that snow and ice conditions South Estonia can offer at this time of year make it an ideal site for a winter rally, at least this year.

Koosa said: "Unfortunately, due to the almost non-existent ice and snow conditions in recent years, it has been impossible to organize winter rallies, but it seems that this year the weather has met the wishes of fans, and we can organize a proud winter event."

Despite the short notice, up to 80 crews from Estonia and beyond are expected to take part, with the Tehvandi Sports Center forming the hub of proceedings.

The entire circuit has a length of 266.7 km, with the speed test segments – comprising four sections to be run twice each – coming to just under 84 km of the total.

Options for viewing the event virtually are being explored at the moment, Janis Kaal said.

Estonia's regular national summer rally, Rally Estonia, became a full top-tier WRC event last year, and has been confirmed for this season too, when it takes place 15-18 July. A separate South Estonia summer rally is also regularly held.

Whether WRC driver and 2019 world champion Ott Tänak will take part in February's race in Otepää has not been announced yet.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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