After a five-year long absence, the Otepää Winter Rally is back with the organisatory team announcing on Thursday that Hyunday World Rally Championship (WRC) drivers Thierry Neuville and Estonian driver Ott Tänak have been added to the entry list.
The rally's return was announced last Thursday and will take 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 Estonian pair and former world champions Ott Tänak - Martin Järveoja will once again race on their homely roads with Hyundai teammates Thierry Neuville and co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe joining them with the Hyundai i20 Coupe World Rally Car.
According to the event's director, Marko Koosa, there is no negative about world elite drivers joining the rally. "I am very glad that Hyundai Motorsport has found an opportunity to once again come to Estonia. Looking at the current winter conditions, I believe the roads in southern Estonia are a terrific preparation for the coming WRC round in Rovaniemi," Koosa said.
"Knowing that the best in the world have decided to make their preparations on the roads of Otepää makes the organisatory team work even harder," he added.
Hyundai Motorsport chief Andrea Adamo said it the Otepää rally is a great chance to test out tires for WRC rounds. "The snowy and icy conditions of the event will offer a good opportunity to our crews Ott and Martin and Thierry and Martijn to run in similar conditions to the ones they will find in Finland in a couple of weeks' time and to gather more mileage with the Pirelli Sottozero ice tyre," Adamo said, according to rally portal DirtFish.
"We are happy to participate in Otepää Winter Rally with two Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC cars as part of our preparations for Arctic Rally Finland /.../ We are always happy to go to Estonia and we feel very welcome in Ott's home country. Unfortunately Otepää Winter Rally will be closed to spectators – due to COVID-19 restrictions – but a live TV coverage will allow Ott and WRC's fans to follow the event closely from home," the team chief added.
Ott Tänak is glad to be back on Estonian roads, the first official competition since dominating WRC Rally Estonia last year. "With the winter we have now, the Otepää Rally is a great opportunity to get in rhythm for the Lapland WRC rally. We only have one winter rally in our competition calendar and it is very specific in principle, which is why we have to maximize each day. Our presence in the Estonian Rally Championship events with a WRC car has become a normality, but I am looking forward to drive again these special roads of south Estonia," the 2019 world champion said.
The Otepää Winter Rally will kick off on February 13 at 8 a.m. Estonian time from the service park created at Tehvandi Sports Center. The one-day rally will be held over eight stages with a total length of 83.94 kilometers. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the stages and service park area are closed for spectators.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste