The World Rally Championship (WRC) season is making its return to Estonian roads with Rally Estonia set to begin on Thursday. Estonian rally driver Ott Tänak's season has not gone as well as hoped but the Estonian is planning on continuing his streak of three consecutive wins on Estonian soil.
Tänak told Betsafe (link in Estonian) in an interview that he is still optimistic about the season's outlook, even though he is 64 points behind first-place Toyota man Sebastien Ogier. "Everything is possible until it is not possible, but the situation is certainly getting more unrealistic with every rally," Tänak said.
Although the Hyundai man took a victory from last year's event, Tänak thinks the Finland-based Toyota team might have an advantage. "At Hyundai, it has always been difficult to compete against Toyota on faster events, but we did a good job last year in that regard. They have certainly reacted to it this year and the competition will be tight," the 2019 world champ said.
In fact, Toyota team boss Jari-Matti Latvala told rally portal DirtFish on Tuesday that the team expects the Estonian to be hungry, but Toyota is not afraid of him. Latvala added that Toyota drivers "were not completely happy with the car in Estonia" last year.
While last year's Rally Estonia took place in September, it now will all go down during a heat wave in July. "Since roads are generally soft here, there is certainly greater hope to have dry weather and roads lasting longer thanks to that. Thunderstorms might make the weather less stable, something that would make the rally more interesting, but the tire choice is generally simple here and the weather will not affect much," Tänak said.
There has been discussion about shortening rally events in the future in order to keep them from getting stale. Tänak agreed and said the best solution is if rally's were made two-day events, making them more compact and more exciting. "The current format is decades old," Tänak noted.
Rally Estonia will begin on Thursday with an opening ceremony and the first speed stage at 8.38 p.m. There are eight stages scheduled on Friday, nine on Saturday and five speed stages and a powerstage set to take place on Sunday.
The route covers just under 320 kilometers of track in the heavily forested South Estonia, making it nearly 100 kilometers longer than last year's inaugural event.
WRC drivers' rankings:
1. Sebastien Ogier (Toyota) 133 points
2. Elfyn Evans 99 (Toyota)
3. Thierry Neuville 77 (Hyundai)
4. Ott Tänak 69 (Hyundai)
5. Takamoto Katsuta 66 (Toyota)
6. Kalle Rovanperä 56 (Toyota)
7. Gus Greensmith 34 (Ford M-Sport)
8. Dani Sordo 32 (Hyundai)
1. Toyota 273 points
2. Hyundai 214
3. M-Sport 109
4. Hyundai 2C Competition 28
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste