Rally Estonia Preview : TOYOTA GAZOO Racing aims to continue its winning WRC form
The TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team heads into the second half of the 2021 season at Rally Estonia (July 15-18) with the target of continuing the strong form that has seen it win each of the last three rallies – and five of the six rounds held so far this year.
After his win on the return of the legendary Safari Rally Kenya last month, Sébastien Ogier leads the drivers’ standings by 34 points over his team-mate and closest rival Elfyn Evans. Sixth in the standings, Kalle Rovanperä will aim to return to the podium in Estonia on roads that suit him well, while TGR WRC Challenge Program driver Takamoto Katsuta will hope to build upon his maiden WRC podium finish in Kenya.
Introduced to the WRC calendar in 2020, Rally Estonia is best known for its high-speed roads with crests and jumps, although more technical sections do also feature. The surface can be soft and sandy, meaning ruts can form for the second pass of each stage.
The event expands this year to cover 314.16 competitive kilometres and 24 stages across four days, starting on Thursday with an evening super special stage close to the service park in Tartu, Estonia’s second largest city. Friday and Saturday both feature a loop of four stages to be repeated after mid-day service, but while Friday’s stages are familiar from the 2020 event, Saturday’s are new – aside from a second pass of the Tartu super special to round out the day. A loop of three stages is run twice without a service break on Sunday, including a new Power Stage that runs adjacent to the service park.
Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal)
“It has been a really strong season for us so far and now we need to keep up the same great work during the second half of the year. Rally Estonia is a very different challenge to Kenya: This one is all about the speed. We know that it is not going to be easy to win there, but I certainly hope that we can challenge for the top positions once again. In our testing for this event we have focused on the smaller and more technical roads which were a bit of a weakness last year, and I think we are looking better now in this area. I know that all of our drivers will be hungry to do well.”
Sébastien Ogier (Driver car 1)
“To have won four rallies already this season is mega and better than we could have expected. Winning rallies at the moment in the WRC is tough because the competition is very hard, so I’m very happy with our season so far. Rally Estonia is a challenging one to win, especially running first on the road, but I will do my best to keep scoring big points. Certainly the ground will be much smoother than in Kenya, so we can really focus on the driving and on trying to find the limits. It’s always a difficult challenge to be on the limit on such fast roads that we have in the north of Europe, but I think it’s a challenge that every single driver enjoys.”
Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)
“Kenya was not a great rally for me in terms of championship points but we need to put that aside and focus on doing the best we can in Estonia. Even though there were some very high-speed sections in Kenya, Rally Estonia has a very different character. The sort of stages we have there really bring out the best from this current crop of cars, and driving the Yaris WRC is always such a fantastic thrill on roads like these. We know the basis of our car is generally very good in high-speed sections, but there were a few things that we didn’t get 100 per cent correct for Estonia last year, so in testing we’ve been trying to get the car as good as we can and just be as prepared as possible.”
Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)
“I have always liked the fast rallies like Estonia. I have driven a lot in the Baltic countries and they have the same kind of fast and flowing roads as in Finland. It suits me really well, and you can also feel that the Yaris WRC likes these kinds of roads. It’s important to be confident in your car and in yourself on a rally like this or you can lose a lot of time. I’m really looking forward to turn things in a better direction for us in the second half of the season, and I think Estonia can be a good event for that. I hope we will have a good feeling and a clean rally, and then hopefully we can start to have good results again.”
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