Why running first on the road might not hurt in Estonia

The weather forecast for Rally Estonia is changeable. That might negate Sébastien Ogier's early road order disadvantage

Ott Tanak (EST)

One much-talked about topic in the World Rally Championship service park this week is the potential for winners and losers when it comes to the running order. After six months away, part of the story still hasn’t changed.

With Rally Estonia being a new event on the calendar, there’s not a vast amount of historical data to look back on. So we talked to one man who definitely knows more about it than we do: Ott Tänak.

DirtFish driver Ott won the event last year (and the year before), so he’s got a good idea of who can expect what from their position on the road.

The overcast but largely dry weather which has sat over South Estonia could break at the weekend. Currently, there’s no heavy rain in the picture, but showers are increasingly likely over the weekend stages.

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“Like everywhere, it depends a lot on the weather. At South Estonia [Rally] it was raining quite hard overnight and I’m sure first on the road had the best position to start the rally,” Tänak told DirtFish.

“It can be an advantage and a disadvantage, but generally even if it’s loose, normally the cleaning [effect] is not as bad as it is in some south European events.

“The roads in Estonia are a bit softer, so that means even in the loose you still get some mechanical grip. Let’s see. It depends on so many different things.

“For sure there’s some advantage for the drivers who have done the event before like Elfyn [Evans] and Craig [Breen] and Esapekka [Lappi]. The knowledge always helps you.”

The cleaning effect on faster rallies is generally less pronounced. Places like Estonia and Finland generally have less junctions – which means less opportunity for the braking and accelerating to be compromised by the loose gravel.

Sebastien Ogier

Photo: Leo Francis/Red Bull Content Pool

But for Sébastien Ogier, it’s still the weather he’s counting on to make the biggest difference.

“We hope that the weather in September could maybe help us to not have too much of a disadvantage – let’s see what we can do. We all know starting first can be sometimes difficult,” said Ogier.

The six-time champion’s not wrong. Running first on the road can be a second-sapping nightmare. But few have shown themselves as adept as him at dealing with those compromised conditions.