Why Estonia’s support of Latvia isn’t “political bulls***”

Rally Estonia director Urmo Aava doesn't understand why people think event bosses would resent Latvia


Many months ago, when Urmo Aava told DirtFish he was pleased for Latvia and its inclusion into the World Rally Championship, I made a mental note to ask him at the end of Rally Estonia.

On Sunday, I sat down with the director of the Tartu-based event and smiled inwardly at my ability to make him eat his words. With no deal in place to secure Estonia’s future in the world championship (even though the promoter has made it pretty clear it’s welcome back any time), there was no way Aava would be as gracious towards his nation’s southerly neighbors.

Pointing this out, Aava smiled. Then made me eat my words.

“We have very close relationship with Rally Latvia organizers,” he said. “I would say, long-term, it is very, very beneficial for us that WRC is going next year to Latvia.”

Say what?

Admitting that one was lost on me, Aava took a deep breath.

“You know,” he said, “really, I don’t understand why people don’t understand it.”

Sit up and listen, it’s double geography followed by double economics with Professor Aava.

He continued: “Our main foreign markets are Finland and Latvia, from the geography. Finland is a ready market, it’s an old market because they have existing rally fans – hundreds of thousands. It’s only the question with what kind of tools are you bringing them [to Estonia] and what kind of activation. The market is ready and has been ready [for] decades.

“But Latvia is a kind of market with, let’s say, waves. Rallying is semi-popular, but they never had like a star driver, and they never had the WRC.

Martins Sesks

“So what is happening now in Latvia? Look what is Mārtiņš Sesks doing? Winning ERC. What is going on is a similar explosion of the dream like in Estonia with Markko Märtin 20 years ago.

“If we are smart and contributing to make this dream come true, Latvians are building the [WRC] market for us. We should help in any way that Mārtiņš Sesks is doing well, and the Latvians are doing well – even if it means we will be in a rotational system [with WRC rounds].

“If Finland, Estonia and Latvia are making a cooperation, everybody will win. If we are fighting and, if we are closing each other, then at the end of, I don’t know, 2024, everybody is looking at the results and we are lacking foreign tourists.

“There should be competition for organizing the WRC, but the competition should be healthy. You should work in an open way and develop your own event – but with cooperation, because alone you cannot do nothing.

Thierry Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe

“It sounds like political bulls*** but I believe it. Riga to Otepää is closer than Tallinn to Otepää, so if we can invite in 2025, maybe, 10,000 Latvian fans, everybody is a big winner and vice versa with this number of Estonians going to Latvia.”

Actually, it all makes sense now. Everybody wants a slice of the pie. If they bake a Baltic pie together, the pie – and their slice – will be bigger.

The only danger lies in Latvia’s success. If Riga rocks and delivers even more than Tartu’s managed in the last four rallies, it might work against Estonia.

The economics makes complete sense, but sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for.