What Latvia’s inclusion means for the WRC

Rally Latvia will be added to the 2024 schedule - but what does that mean for rallies like Estonia?

Tom Kristensson

Keep your powerpoint. Forget your whiteboard. Lowering a Ford Puma Rally1 from the rafters is the only way to launch your nation’s first ever round of the World Rally Championship.

Welcome to Latvia.

Watching Ott Tänak’s ride being roped in, rally director Raimonds Strokšs was briefly caught in the moment. Why wouldn’t he be?

“It’s a dream come true,” he said.

But is it really?

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In reality, this dream became just that – a reality – a good while ago.

Liepāja has long been tipped for a WRC calendar slot. There was a lot of chatter around Rīga in the seasons impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic – and it came close back then – but this one’s being billed as a European Rally Championship round made good; a hard-working ERC regular that’s been given its shot at the big time.

And it deserves it. The Latvians are as enthusiastic and innovative as anybody in the championship.

The only downside is that Latvia’s arrival will almost certainly come at the cost of Estonia.

Talk to anybody at WRC Promoter and you get a consistent message that discussions with Tallinn are still ongoing, but the commonly held view across the service park is that Tartu will take a break.

Happy as I am to see Latvia in, I’ll be seriously sad to see Estonia on the bench – it’s become a firm favorite in the last three years.


Question is, from a driver and co-driver’s perspective, will they notice much of a difference? Latvia, like Estonia, is only really a hop, skip and a swim across the Baltic Sea to Finland and the roads are remarkably similar in that they are fast.

Like fast.

When Mārtinš Sesks crossed the finish-line to win last year’s Rally Liepāja, his Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo clocked an average speed of 74mph. For context, Kris Meeke’s fastest WRC finish benchmark (on 2016 Rally Finland) is just 4mph north of that.

There are more than a few who feel some of the Latvian stages will be just too quick. Certainly, the organizer will need to consider the same sort of process the Estonian’s undertook in building jumps and possibly even some smaller roads. Liepāja’s not naturally blessed with that rhythm-changing, average speed-lowering blend of quick and wide and tight twisties.

From what we’ve seen at the WRC launch, ambition and activation are high on the list of Latvian priorities for next season.

Nothing’s off the table – certainly not now they’ve landed a place at the only table that matters.

What are your thoughts about Latvia’s addition to the WRC schedule? Share them in the comments below