This summer’s inaugural Rally DirtFish will move back from its announced July date to August 7/8.
The organizer of the Estonian event took the decision following the news of Neste Rally Finland’s cancellation from the same August weekend.
Estonian Autosport Union chairman of the board Janis Kaal explained the thinking behind the change of date.
“The first thing we want to say is that we were very sorry to hear the news from Neste Rally Finland,” said Kaal.
“It’s no secret how much us Estonians love to make the trip across the water to Jyväskylä, it’s an annual pilgrimage for thousands of us and we are very sad not to be joining our friends in the forests in August.
“As you can imagine, it was no coincidence we were running Rally DirtFish two weeks before Neste Rally Finland’s scheduled date. The roads we have here in Estonia are very, very similar to those [in Finland] and they provide a fantastic opportunity to test for that round of the World Rally Championship.
“When the news came that Neste Rally Finland wouldn’t be running, we had to make a decision to stay where we are or move to the date we’d already talked about as a reserve. We are all very well aware of the current situation with COVID-19 and we can see, week on week, the level of lockdown around the world is starting to ease.
“To move Rally DirtFish back by two weeks makes a lot of sense; it gives more time to, hopefully, let the coronavirus situation settle which will help competitors looking to travel to take part in the event.”
DirtFish CEO Justin Simpson said the decision to move back by a fortnight came with the complete backing of the Seattle-based Rally School and media firm.
“We reopened DirtFish Rally School last week,” said Simpson, “that came after two months’ closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic and several weeks of planning, adapting protocols, operating procedures, etc, to ensure we can meet regulations provided by our local government to safely provide driving programs to our customers.
“It’s with that in mind that we’re in complete agreement with the decision to push back Rally DirtFish by two weeks. Like Janis said, the world is changing on a daily basis, so the chance to give ourselves an additional two weeks makes sense.
“Our entire team here at DirtFish is very sad about the cancellation of multiple rallying events across the world, and that certainly includes the iconic Rally Finland. The impact COVID-19 has had on our communities and global motorsport, cannot be taken lightly.
“We aim to showcase what can be accomplished in these new times with the first Rally DirtFish event in Estonia.”
And few know more about the icon that is Rally Finland than the driver who has won it for the last two years, Hyundai Motorsport’s Ott Tänak.
The defending World Rally Champion has put his hat-trick ambitions on ice for 12 months.
“Everybody loves to go to Finland,” said Tänak. “It’s a very special event for myself.
“It’s not so many times you have the chance to fly in the car like you do on that rally. And, for Estonians, it’s even more special – it’s the closest thing we have to a home round of the championship. Sometimes, when you are seeing the [Estonian] flags flying, it even feels like you drive at home.
“I understand the decision the [Finland] organizers have taken. The world is a bit like a tough place right now and the virus is making things more complicated. But I believe it is getting better. We are seeing some more normal life coming to our home here in Estonia and in the other places.
“The important thing for Rally DirtFish is to take as much time as possible. I talked with the organisers and they could be ready to make the rally tomorrow if needed, but the more time we can take it’s going to make it a bit easier for people coming.
“Let’s do that and then let’s make a good day for the sport.”