From the rugged terrain of Safari Rally Kenya, the World Rally Championship is back on the fast, smooth roads of Estonia for round seven of the series.
The rally has already got under way with a short, one-mile blast around Tartu but the action gets into full flow for the first time on Friday with four stages that are repeated in the afternoon after service.
We’ve called upon American rallying driver and WRC2 ace Sean Johnston to be our guide for what lies ahead this weekend.
SS2/6 Arula (7.88 miles)
The first third of the stage starts off the same as the Arula stage from last year, but this year it splits onto what was the Mäeküla stage from 2020. The final miles are actually most of the beginning of that Mäeküla test, but now run in reverse as the finish this year.
Confused yet? Well, we were too when looking at the maps prepping for the rally, but getting out there on the recce pulled the pieces together, and I think it’ll be a fun stage with several different rhythms.
The beginning is fast, wide, with a few big jumps – one notable one being the big jump where Elfyn Evans injured his back in 2019. The second half of the stage is a bit more narrow and technical.
SS3/7 Otepää (10.59 miles)
Starts off as the Otepää stage from last year where crews see several large jumps in the opening miles! Ridiculously fun, and definitely hard on the car and on the body when the car finally comes back down to earth.
After a blast through the common spectator area, we then head off into what was used as the second half of the Kaagvere stage in 2020, before taking a different turn at a junction and finishing on close to four miles of completely new roads. A nice mix of familiar elements and new challenges for the crews.
SS4/8 Kanepi (10.28 miles)
Odd fact: Kanepi, beyond being the name of a small village, is the word for cannabis in Estonian! In more rally-related information, this is a simple reverse running of a stage used last year. The stage starts out narrow but quite fast before opening up to a wide section that has some wonderful rhythm and fun elevation changes.
We then take a junction left to head into a series of several crests and three notable jumps, one of which is ridiculously huge and definitely requires the brakes in order to survive! The other two may just be flat in this direction this year, we’ll see.
SS5/9 Kambja (11.09 miles)
This was the powerstage last year and it remains relatively untouched, with the exception of a new 400m long-cut jaunt through a small farm, and the finish line being moved a mile or so up the road to shorten the stage a bit.
It’s a gorgeous stage with a little bit of everything: one huge jump, several small to medium sized jumps, fast wide roads, narrow technical roads, and everything in between. Very enjoyable stage, really looking forward to this one!