It does beg the question, doesn’t it? Why is reigning World Rally Champion Ott Tänak driving a factory Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC on a 35-mile gravel rally in Estonia on Saturday?
So, I asked him.
The answer is refreshing in both its sentiment and simplicity: he’s doing it to help local car clubs and the Estonian Autosport Union. He’s doing it to help the sport in his homeland.
“The idea behind this event is to help the local organizers in Estonia to find a different solution to the sport right now,” Tänak told DirtFish.
“Like we all know, things are complicated in the world right now, so we have to find ways to organize rallies for a smaller budget and to make them more compact. It has to be easier and less expensive [to run a rally]. The team making this Kehala Rally is also the organizer which ran the Viru Rally, which was the first one back for me after lockdown.”
Victory on Viru Rally was Tänak’s first with Hyundai, as it took place prior to Rally Estonia.
“These organizers and the Autosport Union understand the need to innovate for the future and that’s what they’re trying to do. We all understand how very extreme the situation is with the virus, but at the same time the life cannot stop completely.
“We can’t go back to rallying like normal right now, but with these organizers we have been able to find a way we can do it safely and in a cost-effective way.”
The Kehala Rally is based at a rallycross circuit east of Tallinn. The event utilizes all the circuit roads as well as some local forest stages, with the emphasis firmly on providing a compact route and good roads.
The event starts shortly before 0900 local time and finishes before 1600 after the completion of nine stages.
Tänak isn’t the only WRC star competing, with Hyundai Customer Racing’s Ole Christian Veiby starting in an i20 R5. Estonian privateer Georg Gross also drives his Ford Fiesta WRC.
“As well as helping out [the local organizers and EAU], it’s good to get back in the car,” added Tänak.
“Like before, it’s been quite a long break since I drove now and this is kind of the last chance before the weather changes – right now we have nice autumn weather and the roads are in really nice condition.”