In an interview ahead of Rally Estonia, top Estonian driver Ott Tänak spoke positively about the road conditions he had experienced during the short testing period. Tänak added that, although he would love to win in front of a home crowd, his main focus was to finish the race without too much stress. The Estonian rally ace also discussed the impact of Rally Estonia on his body and his views on the proposed changes to the Great Britain stage of the championship.
In the run-up to Rally Estonia, Ott Tänak has been able to test out conditions on the roads of southern Estonia. For Tänak, it was good to drive on a smooth, fast road for a change. "We had a limited testing period for various reasons, but the conditions were really good and the light rain only made things better," he said.
"There are a lot of different nuances to testing. Definitely a lot initially depends on whether it's a pre-rally test or a development test. In general, arrangements for testing are usually made by the local organizers in each country and the logistics team. The local organizers provide options for (different) roads and then the drivers and engineers choose one according to whichever testing needs and aims (they consider) are important to develop at that point," said Tänak.
Based on pre-rally tests, the Estonian's first impression is that the stages are mostly the same as in previous years. "There are a few new stages and some longer ones, which go in the opposite direction to before. You have to hope that your body can withstand these ski jumping hills this year."
While Tänak was unable to single out specific sections that would be most enjoyable during this year's Rally Estonia, he believes that the best roads to drive on were probably those in the Otepää area. "There are actually some great roads to drive in Estonia," he said.
Whether, and to what extent, artificial ramps, which have previously been criticized by Rally Estonia drivers, will be used in this year's event, is yet to be confirmed. "At the moment I don't know anything about the situation," admitted Tänak. "In general, this rally is really a bit torturous for the whole body, and in no previous year have I come away completely unscathed."
The fact that this stage of the World Rally Championship is held in Tänak's home country, means the Estonian can cut out a few extra days travelling, when compared to other races during the season. However, the Estonian sees no major differences when it comes to other aspects of the experience.
"Personally, I'd like to win at home, of course, but our focus is very much on being able to finish rallies without too much stress," he said. We certainly aren't in a position of strength, but we will give maximum effort to get (a good) result."
There has been controversy in the build-up to this year's event, with Russian driver Nikolay Gryazin banned from entering Estonia to take part in the race, due to Russia's war in Ukraine.
Tänak however, remained relatively tight-lipped about the impact of the war on the rallying world. "The war affects all of us, and the world of rallying is certainly no exception," he said.
Tänak did comment on recent news that Rally Great Britain may soon be moved from Wales, which has staged the event since 2000, to other locations around the UK, including Northern Ireland. "I'm definitely a fan of Rally Wales, one of the most legendary rallies on the calendar, Tänak said. "It's a very unique rally and almost always has challenging conditions, but on roads that are made for rallying. I've also heard good things about the roads in (Northern) Ireland, but I haven't experienced them myself," said Tänak.
Rally Estonia begins on Thursday, July 14 and finishes on Sunday, July 17.
Events get underway with a rally EXPO on Autovabaduse puiestee, next to Tartu's Town Hall Square (Raekoja Plats) open from 15:00 on Thursday, followed by the official Rally Estonia opening ceremony at 18:00 the same day. The ceremony features from Estonian artists including 5MIINUST, Trad.Attack!, Grete Paia & Púr Múdd, Bedwetters ft. YASMYN, Jüri Pootsmann, Shaté DanceSchool, String Quartet, and the Tartu Boys Choir.
Rally Estonia 2022 concludes on Sunday, July 17, with an award ceremony at 17:00 in Town Hall Square.
The full program of Rally Estonia 2022 can be found here.
Editor: Michael Cole