Why Estonia is excited for the WRC’s unexpected arrival

After years of work Estonia is finally on the WRC calendar - and its Prime Minister couldn't be more excited

Markko Martin (EST)

They just kept on coming. First there was the Minister of Finance, Martin Helme. Then his opposite number in the Minister of Culture Tõnis Lukas appeared, right before Jüri Ratas stepped into the room.

Estonia’s Prime Minister might well have stolen the show had the nation’s musician of the year Kadri Voorand not rocked up with a cello-wielding Mihkel Mälgand to entertain the party over lunch in Tallinn on Thursday.

But actually, there was only one show in the capital. And that was the one WRC Promoter chief Oliver Ciesla signed off on: September’s Rally Estonia. And Estonia’s arrival on the world stage.

This Baltic nation might be among the WRC’s smaller population centers, with only 1.329 million people calling themselves Estonians. But when two of those 1.329 million – Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja – are reigning World Rally Champions, this sport is big business. And big business brings heavy hitters.

As PM, Ratas runs the country. But, clearly, he’s a rally fan too. Quick to welcome Ciesla, his deference was amazing as he pointed out that he and his country had a lot to thank the WRC Promoter managing director for.

“And I won’t stop you,” smiled Ciesla.

It was a day for smiles.

Oliver Ciesla_Jüri Ratas_Jaanus Ree

WRC Promoter boss Oliver Ciesla (left) and Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (right)

Photo: Jaanus Ree

Ratas said: “Today’s historical moment is a result of the consistent work by many people during the years. With this step, Estonia once again confirms its position in the world of rallying. In addition to being the homeland of the world champions, today Estonia has become an organizer of a World Rally Championship event.

“This is more than a unique opportunity to organize a global sport event in Estonia. Having a FIA World Rally Championship round in Estonia introduces our country to the world and contributes to our economy and regional development.

“Additionally, this has a positive impact to Estonian motorsport and its development. I acknowledge and congratulate the Rally Estonia team, their partners, local municipalities and WRC Promoter!

“Their joint effort and actions have contributed to the fact that in September, the Estonian people can cheer the reigning world champions in their title chase on their home roads.”

Eerik Pietarinen (FIN)

Photo: Jaanus Ree / Red Bull Content Pool

Culture man Lukas focused on the global impact Estonia was about to make as the Republic and its 1500 islands was about to make sporting – and hopefully cultural – headlines around the world.

“I’m impressed by the effort of the organizers who have built Rally Estonia year by year to make it a top level event in the world. The first official round of the World Rally Championship in Estonia is excellent proof of it.

“This is the biggest sporting event after Estonia regained independence. The images from our beautiful country and its nature and cultural attractions will attract more then 150 million viewers worldwide in television and internet.

And for Helme, the Estonian finance minister, the numbers were were looking particularly pleasing.

“The economic impact of Rally Estonia to the whole country and specifically the South-Estonian region has been remarkable,” he said.

“In addition to the direct economic impact, FIA World Rally Championship raises awareness about Estonia internationally. Worldwide TV-coverage can create new opportunities to Estonian entrepreneurs and people as we have a possibility to introduce our country and its people to potential investors.

“Organizing a safe event at this level gives us an opportunity to show our innovative solutions and the abilities of our people to the world. I respect the courage and innovative thinking of the Estonian autosport community and wish them luck!”


Photo: Jaanus Ree

Talking of safety, the Estonian government has committed to a special committee tasked with minimizing the risk of coronavirus at Rally Estonia. The Ministry of the Interior, the Border Guard, Police, Health Board, they would all be involved in keeping the pandemic at bay during the WRC’s maiden visit.

But Thursday was about forgetting the misery COVID-19 has spread. Thursday was about focusing on the future.

Listening to the fabulously eclectic and abstract Voorand, I type this humming to I must stop eating chocolate. Seems there was a message in Thursday for all of us.