Estonian WRC star Ott Tänak's home rally chances have been practically dashed before the event is even underway after technical issues necessitated an engine replacement to the M-Sport Ford Puma – and with it a five-minute penalty.
Rally Estonia day one sees the first stage proper begin at 8.05 p.m. today, Thursday.
However, it was Thursday morning's shakedown run which led to hints of trouble ahead.
Despite out-streaking the competition by over a second early on in the test run, he later mentioned engine trouble, a problem later confirmed by M-Sport team boss Richard Millener.
As the day wore on it became apparent that the issue cannot be ironed out and instead, a replacement engine will need to be fitted into the car.
While this is permissible, the rules state that it incurs a five-minute penalty going into the start of stage one.
Talking to the WRC official site, Millener said: "We have no option but to change the engine, which we can do by regulation, but it will mean that we get a penalty before we start the rally."
"It's a really frustrating start to the rally, possibly the worst start we could have had, but that's the situation we find ourselves in."
"It's going to put us at a serious disadvantage from the word go, really, but we've got to switch focus now. There's nothing we can change about what's happened so the focus now will be to try to salvage as much as possible from the event.
"Obviously the biggest disappointment is for Ott and Martin," Millener added. "We fully appreciate the country we're in, their home rally, and the expectation and support from the home fans."
The 4.08km test stage was ultimately won by reigning champion Kalle Rovanperä (Finland, Toyota).
Stage one starts at 8.05 p.m. Estonian time, at Raadi, on the outskirts of Tartu.
The remaining stages on Friday to Sunday range around Tartu and Otepää.
Editor: Andrew Whyte