Efforts underway to save Rally Estonia

National governing body vows to talk to organizers, as backer steps in to help resolve dispute over Tänak's home event

Rally Estonia 2019

The Estonian Autosport Union is ready to do all it can to get this year’s Rally Estonia back on track following the news of its cancellation on Wednesday.

EAU board member Janis Kaal told DirtFish he was in shock at the news of the loss of the nation’s biggest motorsport event and he wanted to work with event director Urmo Aava.

Estonian businessman and longtime supporter of both current World Rally champion Ott Tänak and Rally Estonia Oleg Gross stepped in at the 11th hour with the offer to pay the money required by the EAU, but that wasn’t enough to stave off the cancellation.

The problem arose with the EAU’s policy of ‘taxing’ international events 4% of their income. That money was designed to go back into the governing body to support the development of young drivers.

Aava told DirtFish: “We have an existing contract with the Autosport Union from 2017 and until 2023. We follow all the points and the goals – the main one being to get a round of the WRC – but this [tax] is not part of the terms of the contract.

“They cannot use this position of power to change the terms. And then they say to the government that the WRC is not any longer the priority.

“This means we lose the funding from the government and our sponsor. Without any income, the non-profit company which runs this rally is bankrupt.

“We had two options: we could make trouble with the government or cancel the event. I will not make trouble with the government.”

Asked about the potential Gross solution, Aava replied: “We found out about this one hour before the press conference. I don’t think it’s fair to bring this so late. I feel very, very disappointed. It is very sad.”

Kaal shares Aava’s sadness, but wants to find a conclusion to bring Rally Estonia back to life for its July date.

“To be honest, right now I am too shocked,” he said. “I don’t think the situation is quite so black and white.

“Myself and the other board members feel the proportion of income we take is fair, it’s the principle of solidarity that we use to finance our sport. The other organizers accept the change and they don’t have the funding from the government.

“What really surprises me is that we had a solution to this, with Oleg Gross ready to pay the fee to the union. He was willing to put the money in and he made that clear in the morning. I don’t understand the real reason to cancel this event.

“I met with Urmo in the television studio and he is a really nice guy. We all know the work he has put in to make this a great event. I don’t understand how this has failed, how we cannot find a common understanding.

“I am really keen to find a solution. I do not want to talk to make the fight bigger, let’s try to find a way forward.”

Words:David Evans