Rally Estonia: Preview
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing reaches for top gear at the halfway stage
The TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team arrives at the midway point of the 2022 FIA World Rally Championship season at Rally Estonia (July 14-17): the first of two back-to-back events on fast gravel roads in the north of Europe.
Estonia was the scene of Kalle Rovanperä’s maiden WRC victory one year ago. Since then, the young Finn has taken five further victories, including four in the last five events to build a lead of 65 points in the drivers’ championship.
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing heads the manufacturers’ standings by 62 points after a historic 1-2-3-4 finish on last month’s Safari Rally Kenya led by Rovanperä, Elfyn Evans and TGR WRT Next Generation driver Takamoto Katsuta. Esapekka Lappi will return to the TGR WRT line-up in Estonia alongside Rovanperä and Evans for his fourth start of the season.
Rally Estonia offers a very different challenge to the three previous rounds on gravel, with smooth and fast roads featuring many jumps and crests, although the soft and sandy surface can become rutted for the second pass of each stage.
The rally is based in Tartu, Estonia’s second largest city, and begins on Thursday evening with a short super special next to the service park. Both Friday and Saturday feature a loop of four stages to be run twice either side of mid-day service. Another pass of the super special to round out Saturday’s action and an extended version around the Raadi airfield, run in the opposite direction to last year’s Power Stage, opens two loops of three stages on Sunday. The rally-ending Power Stage once more takes place over the Kambja test, as it did in 2020.
Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal)
“The result in Kenya was incredible for us but we are now facing a very different challenge for the next two events in Estonia and Finland. Up until now we have been concentrating on reliability, and although we of course want to maintain this, for these smooth and fast rallies we also need to focus on extracting the maximum performance from the GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID. It will be a challenge for the drivers as well, because coming from a rough event like the Safari Rally it’s easy to drive too comfortably, and you need to attack from the start of the first stage or you can lose a lot of time. To do this they have to have confidence in the car and their feedback from our pre-event testing has been positive, so we’re looking forward to Estonia and aiming for another strong result.”
Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)
“I’m looking forward to these next two rallies on fast gravel roads, which will be quite different to what we’ve experienced during the last few events. Estonia will be the first really fast gravel rally that we’ve done with these cars, so the testing has been really important to try and prepare for that. I enjoy the high-speed stages we have in Estonia but it always helps a lot if you feel good in the car, so the target is to have a car that works well in all conditions and then hopefully secure a strong result at the end of the weekend.”
Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)
“Of course it’s going to be nice for me to go back to Rally Estonia. Winning there last year was a great moment and it was a really strong weekend for us. This year we are in a different situation leading the champioship and so we will be opening the road, but hopefully we can do another good result there. I always enjoy rallies like this one with fast and flowing roads, they suit me pretty well. It’s really important to feel confident in the car when driving at those speeds, so we have done a lot of work in testing to try and get the setup how we want it.”
Esapekka Lappi (Driver car 4)
“I’m really looking forward to being in the car for these next two events, and especially my home rally in Finland of course. Estonia will not be so easy as I didn’t do the rally last year, so there are some stages that will be new for me. I believe I can do well there, but I’m not going into it with any big expectations. So far this year we have had good pace on every surface but I haven’t always been able to put it together. Therefore the main goal for Estonia is just to have a good, clean rally.”
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