Here’s a question for you: now that Estonia’s very definitely Estonia and no longer pretending to be Finland, do we still need the jumps?
Aping the roads around Jyväskylä was what got the manufacturers to Tartu in the first place; prior to last season, Estonia traded on two things: its status as a World Rally Championship Promotional event (whatever that really meant) and providing a competitive test for what was to come on the other side of the Baltic Sea. With that in mind, building some ballistics into the route made sense.
But Rally Estonia’s arrived now and there are plenty who question whether the jumps are a necessary part of this event’s future.
Since 2019, Elfyn Evans seriously injured his back and last week Dan Barritt did the same.
Barritt’s injury forced him and Takamoto Katsuta out of third place and into retirement by Friday lunchtime.
Barritt told DirtFish: “It goes without saying this wasn’t the way we wanted to finish the rally, I’m so disappointed about what’s happened. For me now, I’m focused on recuperating at home and making sure everything’s as it should be.”
Barritt’s not one for the soapbox, so he wasn’t about to launch into a tirade about the jumps. But the competitors’ feelings are clear: when they’re manmade they don’t replicate Finland perfectly and they don’t always have the right, natural profile for landing. Too often, the cars are landing on the level instead of a more ideal downslope.
Unsurprisingly, Rally Estonia director Urmo Aava’s on this one already.
“The first thing I want to say is that I’m sorry for Dan,” Aava told DirtFish. “I was very sad to see Dan and Taka stopping – this is not what we want at all.
“We will take all of the feedback from the teams, the FIA and WRC Promoter and I totally agree with the competitors on some of their points [about the jumps]. It’s really important that we have agreement. Yes, the final decision about how fast they take the jumps is always down to the driver, but we are also responsible and when people hurt their back or some other part of the body then we have to be open to change. We want a great show, but we don’t want people being hurt.”
Suspension development in rallying is one of the most astonishing technological aspects of our sport – but it’s also an area where research, development and engineering has now outstripped what the human body can take. The performance of the cars over those crests was phenomenal, but it’s vital that the user’s up to the job too.