Neuville expects Rovanperä and Tänak to dominate Estonia

It's not often a driver targets third place, but Thierry Neuville is pragmatic about his Rally Estonia chances


He might have been second fastest on Rally Estonia’s shakedown test, but Thierry Neuville doesn’t expect to finish there, or higher, on Sunday afternoon.

Instead, Neuville expects his Hyundai team-mate Ott Tänak and championship leader Kalle Rovanperä – the previous two winners of Rally Estonia since it’s been part of the World Rally Championship – will steal the limelight and battle for the overall victory.

“We know Ott and Kalle are going to be flying all weekend, such as last year,” Neuville explained to DirtFish. “The target has to be right behind [them].

“It’s never been a rally where I felt 100% comfortable, so a podium was a very good result last year and hopefully this year we are going to be able to repeat that.”

It’s not often that a driver admits to their own weakness, but Neuville’s pragmatic. He knows that you can’t be sublime at every event, on every surface, in any condition.


Now in that situation, a driver has two options – and there’s one option most drivers would pluck for: try harder and drive harder.

But Neuville takes a different stance. He doesn’t think that’s a worthwhile approach, believing that could potentially cause more issues than it solves. Instead, he takes a bit of a step back to get the most out of himself.

“You have to drive accordingly, follow the rhythm. You can always push a bit more in some of the stages where you are 100% sure, but the target clearly is to have a trouble free event first.

“It could be the first in the season, and then the results usually should be good.”

But while Neuville has been gracious in his acceptance that he thinks it’s unlikely he will be battling for victory, does it mean that his prediction will be correct?

Will Tänak and Rovanperä be the two fighting for the win?

Naturally, heading into his home event, Tänak is a leading favorite. You definitely wouldn’t bet against him.

But having been unable to test as much as he’d have liked prior to the event, he is feeling on the back foot.

“For sure, our testing and preparation was quite limited,” he said.

“Unfortunately we couldn’t do some tests we were planning to. So today here, on the shakedown, we try to still learn a bit to understand where we are and where we need to be.”


Rovanperä meanwhile appears to have lucked in. Running first on the road should have been a disadvantage for him on Friday, but the rain that is falling in Tartu has turned the tables and given him a potential advantage.

“I think on Friday in some sections it will help a lot, some places maybe not so much but I don’t know, we will see,” he said.

And as for the strategy, given his strong 65-point lead in the championship?

“I think this one and Finland are important events for us. We know we can do a good job on those so of course we try to do the maximum points that we can, and after that it will help us even more for the rest of the year.”