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WRC Rally Estonia preview

Written by Apostolos Papageorgiou, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri

Credit - Toyota Gazoo Racing

After a month off, the World Rally Championship makes its return, heading back to Europe for one of the newest rallies on the calendar, held in Estonia. Based in the city of Tatu, the second largest in the country, the event first joined the WRC fold in 2020, being one of only seven rallies to take place after the pandemic hit. With its high jumps - as demonstrated by Oliver Solberg in his Hyundai i20 last year, and fast and flowing gravel roads, sweeping through the beautiful Estonian forests, the rally hopes to become a permanent fixture on the calendar.

Series leader Kalle Rovanperä has seen the top step of the podium twice, first in 2021, when he secured his first victory, and became the youngest-ever winner in the process, and once again in 2022, on his way to winning the world championship. The Finn considers this rally his favourite on the calendar, putting it ahead of even his home rally in Finland. With his strong form of three podiums in a row, plus the absence of Sebastien Ogier, he’s looking to further extend his already healthy championship lead.

Rovanperä may have the most WRC wins here, with two, but in terms of overall statistics, Ott Tänak leads the way with four, three of those outside the world rally banner, to go along with his 2020 triumph. The home hero hasn’t had the best of luck as of late, with mechanical issues and punctures robbing him of valuable points, leaving him with just one top four finish in the last three rallies. He still has a mathematical chance of winning the title, and provided he has a capable car underneath him, the Estonian will be a force to be reckoned with, on his home-country’s loose-surface narrow roads.

Credit: Dirtfish

Elfyn Evans felt disappointed to finish a whole three minutes behind his teammates in Kenya, despite making the podium. Despite having only a single finish outside the top five, he remains one of the most consistent performers in the field. His undeniable consistency should come in handy in Estonia, as the Welshman looks for another solid result, in what will be co-driver Scott Martin's 170th WRC start.

After being disqualified from the final results at the Safari for receiving extra information regarding the stages during the race, Thierry Neuville sits 47 points adrift of the top in the standings. If he’s to have any chance of catching up in this second part of the season, he needs to erase his mistakes completely, starting here in Estonia.

A mechanical problem prevented Esapekka Lappi from scoring his fourth podium in a row last time out in Kenya. With team leader Neuville not entirely comfortable on fast gravel rallies, and the Finn being a proven winner on such surfaces, this could be Lappi’s best chance of a win yet.

Dani Sordo is absent for this and the next event, and in his place comes Teemu Sunninen, who’s back in a WRC car for the first time since Monza 2021. The Finn hasn’t raced full-time in the sport since 2020 with M-Sport, while his current WRC2 campaign is a modest one, the Finn sitting eighth in the championship, with a podium in Sardinia. Even so, Sunninen is very much at home on these types of rallies, so he should be able to hit the ground running, and help Hyundai in their quest to catch Toyota in the manufacturers championship.

Credit: Dirtfish

Takamoto Katsuta is on the up after his best finish of the year, fourth in Kenya, not far off from teammate Evans in third. With Ogier not taking place, Taka will be the team’s third car for the event, meaning he’ll do well to bring it home and score some manufacturers points.

Pierre-Louis Loubet felt he should’ve been able to fix a turbo issue on his Puma that ultimately cost him a points place in the power stage. Even so, he matched his season best of seventh, just like Croatia. Should the Ford hold together, the young Frenchman is more than likely to finally justify his seat, having shown flashes of speed in almost every round.

The battle for top honours in the WRC2 resumes in Estonia, with quite a few big names returning after being absent in Kenya. Oliver Solberg, Gus Greensmith, Andreas Mikkelsen and JWRC champion Sami Pajari will be competing with the Skoda Fabia RS, while defending champion Emil Lindholm will contest the rally in a Hyundai i20 N, the seat left vacated by Sunninen.

Credit: Dirtfish


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