Ott Tänak on WRC rally going to Latvia: 'Really stupid'

Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja at Rally Estonia 2023.
Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja at Rally Estonia 2023. Source: Karli Saul

Ott Tänak has branded the loss of Rally Estonia as a full WRC event as "really stupid." While under current plans Rally Estonia would continue, it would revert to the European Rally Championship status it held several years ago, and the WRC race would go south of the border, to Latvia, from next year.

Several other top WRC drivers have also joined Tänak in scratching their heads over the decision.

Tänak, who won the inaugural WRC Rally Estonia – the event had been run for several years prior to becoming a full WRC calendar race – said his home rally is "definitely one of the coolest rallies in the calendar," adding that WRC Promoter "needs to be really stupid if they want to put this one out".

Speaking to Rally blog Dirtfish, Tänak said: "How it's been organized and been improving from year to year, starting from the ceremonial [start] how the people are organized and how the sporting side is for the drivers… OK, Finland and some other rallies are good as well but there are only a few which are close to the level of what Rally Estonia is."

"They definitely need to be stupid [to get rid of it], he went on."

While Tänak might be necessarily biased about his home rally, neutrals have also sung its praises.

Elfyn Evans: I'm a bit disappointed

Welshman Elfyn Evans (Toyota) said Rally Estonia stood out in being a real event, appreciated by the whole public, and not just a race – putting it alongside Belgium's Ypres Rally in that respect.

"[I'm a] bit disappointed in a way," Evans told Dirtifish.

"It's what I consider a rally where it's actually wanted, whereas we seem to have more and more of these slots on the calendar going places where there's very little interest," he added.

Meanwhile, Belgian driver Thierry Neuville, who finished third for Hyundai at last weekend's Rally Estonia, said: "Exchanging a beautiful event like here against another rally that's basically going to be similar in terms of stages, but we don't know how the organization's going to be, is a bit of a shame, that's for sure."

While trading Rally Estonia for Rally Argentina, say, or Rally Wales, might make sense, "I'm not sure the other rally's going to be on the same level," the Belgian went on.

Tänak's team boss at M-Sport Ford, Englishman Richard Millener, told Dirtfish that Rally Estonia should become a "blueprint for all WRC events."

"This event is really fantastic and genuinely one of my favorites of the year, such passionate and knowledgeable fans along with some fantastic stages," Millender said.

"It should be the blueprint for all WRC events. I really hope to be back here again soon," he went on.

Norwegian driver Andreas Mikkelsen, who has won the second-tier WRC2 category at Rally Estonia three times now, including on Sunday, concurred, telling Dirtfish that: It's a shame, I really enjoy Estonia," citing the stage speeds and intricacy, as well as the presence of local hero and 2019 WRC champion Ott Tänak, as unusual selling points.

Rally Estonia organizer: We need a final decision from the government and culture ministry by end of August

Rally Estonia organizer, Urmo Aava told ERR on Sunday that: "While the drivers praise Rally Estonia to the skies, next year's WRC calendar has not included a round in Estonia, while instead they are talking about it being a European Championship round."

"An offer has been made by the promoter of the WRC series which has been forwarded to the Ministry of Culture. Rally budgets have been drawn up down to 2026. I wouldn't want to place too much pressure on the government and on the Ministry of Culture, but we have to make a decision by the end of August."

"That will be the moment of truth," Aava went on.

Sporting activities fall under the Ministry of Culture's remit.

Rally Estonia was a WRC promotional event in 2018 and 2019, the year of Tänak's world championship win, before becoming a full-calendar stage for the Covid-blighted 2020 season.

Tänak won that maiden rally before a home crowd, while Finn Kalle Rovanperä (Toyota), the reigning world champion, has won every time since then.

From 2024, Rally Latvia – a re-branded version of the European Rally Championship's Tet Rally, formerly Tet Rally Liepāja (Tet is a telecoms firm in Latvia-ed.) – is set to join the WRC calendar, even as Latvia has never had a WRC world champion, nor are there any Latvian drivers or co-drivers competing in this season's WRC or second-tier WRC2 categories.

This would result in Rally Estonia being bounced down to its former status as a round of the European Rally Championship, which it was in the years 2014-2016.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: Dirtfish, ERR Sport

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