Rally Estonia: Preview
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing keen to resume winning ways as WRC restarts
The TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team will look to pick up where it left off when the 2020 FIA World Rally Championship resumes at Rally Estonia on September 4-6. The team currently leads the manufacturers’ standings by 21 points, while Sébastien Ogier heads the drivers’ championship with Elfyn Evans second and Kalle Rovanperä fourth. All three drivers made great starts to their debut seasons in the Toyota Yaris WRC at the beginning of this year, with wins for Evans in Sweden and Ogier in Mexico before the season was interrupted because of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Rally Estonia is a new addition on the revised 2020 calendar, which allows the season to restart in a safe and responsible way with strict protocols in place to protect everybody involved. This will be the first time that Rally Estonia has ever been part of the WRC, although all of the manufacturer teams fielded cars at last year’s promotional event. It takes place over fast and smooth gravel roads with many crests and jumps. Since restrictions were eased, the team has prepared for the restart with testing in both Finland and Estonia, which included taking part in the South Estonia Rally last weekend.
The event will run to a condensed itinerary with most of the stages taking place on Saturday and Sunday and a total of 232.64 competitive kilometres. The rally is based in Tartu, Estonia’s second-largest city, where it will begin with a short opening stage on Friday evening close to the service park at the Raadi airfield. Saturday will consist of 10 stages in total, with a loop of five tests run in the morning and then repeated following mid-day service. Sunday features three stages each run twice without service inbetween.
Tommi Mäkinen (Team Principal)
“It is great that we can finally go rallying again, especially for our fans and our partners who have been waiting for this moment. Hopefully we can bring some enjoyment to people in such a difficult period. It feels like a long time ago now, but the beginning of the season was very positive for us and we hope to continue like this. Our drivers are not so familiar with the Estonian stages, but we know that the roads there are fast and this suits our car well. I think that we have prepared as well as we can over the past weeks and I hope that we can compete for the top positions.”
Sébastien Ogier (Driver car 17)
"I’m happy that we are able to compete again after so long. Rally Estonia will be new for many of us, but I’m always excited to take on a different challenge. It’s certainly going to be a demanding rally with very fast roads. The Yaris WRC gives you good confidence at these speeds and after the testing we have done in Finland and in Estonia, I have a good feeling in the car. It was also important to have this event last week to help us prepare, because after such a long break it is not easy to find the limit straight away. We will be starting first on the road so we hope that the weather in September could maybe help us to not have too much of a disadvantage, and the target will be to try to fight as best as we can.”
Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)
"It has been a long time since we have driven competitively. It’s been eased by the fact that we could at least do some testing and get back behind the wheel but there’s nothing like competition. Rally Estonia is new to the WRC and I was lucky enough to be there for last year’s event. Although the rally didn’t end so well for me, I did enjoy it and I know a little bit about what to expect. The roads are very, very fast: Similar to Finland in some ways but with a few less jumps, and even faster in some places. As I’ve seen from the testing we’ve done, the car feels strong on these high-speed gravel roads. We’re definitely hoping that we have a good package and hopefully we can get the most out of it.“
Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)
"The roads in Estonia are really fast and flowing but there are also some narrow and technical sections, so it’s going to be a really tricky rally. You have to be flat out most of the time but then you also have places where you need to be really precise. After the long break, it won’t be so easy to be up to speed in the beginning, but we have had some good testing to help us to be ready. We have been driving in some different weather conditions which has been useful experience for me. I have still only done three WRC rallies in this car and I still need to continue learning over the rest of the season, but this is a rally that should be good for me and I’m hoping for a good result.”
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