Ott Tänak and Saaremaa Rally bring boon to island's economy this weekend

Saaremaa Rally spectators.
Saaremaa Rally spectators. Source: ERR

This weekend sees the annual Saaremaa Rally take place, with WRC star and local hero Ott Tänak taking part among others, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported.

A total of 163 teams are due to take part, not only from Estonia and neighboring states, but from much further afield, AK reported.

Saaremaa rally director Villi Pihl told AK that: "We have never had rally drivers from Oman, South Africa, or Australia here before. It's quite a colorful lineup we've got here."

For some local residents with properties abutting on to the circuit, viewing can often be free-of-charge, and presumably so far as the noise goes unavoidable anyway; for the remainder, paid entry is required.

Sulev, from, Lööne village in the center of the island, told AK that: "You don't need to go far. [Paying an entry fee] has not been needed so far."

Prenden, a resident of nearby Haeska said that they would be: "Out of the house and enjoying it. /.../ We have guests coming from far and wide, so we are setting the table, setting up the sauna and they can try the home brew too."

This is the 56th time the Saaremaa Rally has been held, and it also provides a boon to the local economy.

Saaremaa tourism spokesperson Kristina Mägi said that the usually quiet island and its capital, Kuressaare, spring to life, with local spa centers and accommodation facilities reporting themselves fully booked over the weekend, even as prices are even higher this year.

Another category of local businesses to find a fillip from the event are the hairdressers, which he says are also in-demand, as local residents and visitors alike get themselves prepared for being out and about in public.

For the drivers, young Robert Virves, who currently plies his trade in the second-tier WRC2 category, will be sharing a car with the most famous Estonian rally driver, 2019 world champion Ott Tänak.

"I think that I can trust Ott so much that we will manage," he said of the driver/co-driver lineup.

Tänak, himself a native of Saaremaa, told AK that: "Since we are essentially two drivers in the one car, it is obviously not easy for either of us. We have to make an effort to make things as professional as possible."

"We've already been driving round the forest for a couple of hours, and we still have half a day to go, so we still have a bit of work to do. And obviously it's quite busy, it's not just purely for fun," Tänak, who took victory in faraway Chile last weekend at the full WRC event there, went on.

The race starts at 5.30 p.m. local time on Friday, and ends tomorrow, Saturday.

The official race site in English is here.

The original AK segment including footage of the venue is here.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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